The government has confirmed that the majority of legal COVID-19 restrictions will end this week and guidance will emphasise personal judgement and responsibility. People will be expected to consider and manage their own risk and protect themselves and others through informed choice and by exercising common sense.
Coronavirus will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we need to learn to live with it, but while cases are high and rising, everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. Remember, there is a risk that you could catch or pass on the virus, even if you are fully vaccinated.
While no situation is risk free, there are actions we can take to protect ourselves and others around us. Every action to help reduce the spread will reduce any further resurgence of the virus in the coming months:
- if you develop COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test, even if your symptoms are mild. If you test positive you must self-isolate for 10 full days – this is the law
- around one in three people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms so could be spreading it unknowingly. Free rapid lateral flow device (LFD) testing twice a week increases the chances of detecting COVID-19 when a person is infectious – helping to make sure you don’t spread it
- it is recommended that face coverings continue to be worn in crowded and enclosed spaces, such as on public transport, when mixing with people you don’t normally meet
- wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day. Regular hand washing is an effective way to reduce your risk of catching illnesses, including COVID-19
- while the government is no longer instructing people to work from home, a return to the workplace should be gradual and businesses should follow the published guidance
- you must self-isolate if you are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace, for example if you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive. This remains the law, regardless of your vaccination status. However, from Monday 16 August there will be an isolation exemption for contacts of positive cases, for under 18 year olds and for double vaccinated adults, with advice to take a PCR test as soon as possible instead
- all adults in England have now been offered at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. If you have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated
- the more fresh air, the less likely you are to inhale infectious particles. Consider meeting outdoors or, if you’re indoors, think about how you can improve ventilation and let fresh air in
Please visit the government’s website for more advice on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of coronavirus
Please continue to wear face coverings on public transport and in enclosed spaces
Although it will no longer be a legal requirement for people to wear face coverings after Monday 19 July, the advice for everyone is to continue to wear them especially when indoors with people who you don’t normally meet and in crowded spaces.
So, Devon’s public are encouraged to continue wearing face coverings on public transport after Monday 19 July.
We’ve written to local public transport and patient transport operators, asking them to support this.
And students on council-operated school transport routes will also be advised to continue to wear face coverings (unless exempt), and to remain seated in their year groups, or in accordance with a seating plan if in place, until the end of the summer term. Enhanced cleaning on those vehicles will also remain in place for this period. It will be reviewed over the summer and we expect to issue updated guidance ahead of September.
Seeing a doctor or going to hospital? You still need your mask
Everyone accessing or visiting healthcare settings must continue to wear a face covering and follow social distancing rules.
Although COVID-19 restrictions will end in many settings in England from Monday, Public Health England’s infection prevention control guidelines and hospital visiting guidance are set to remain in place for all staff and visitors.
That means NHS visitor guidance will stay in place across all health services including hospitals, GP practices, dental practices, optometrists and pharmacies to ensure patients and staff are protected.
Staff, patients and visitors will also be expected to continue to follow social distancing rules when visiting any care setting as well as using face coverings, masks and other personal protection equipment.
The NHS will continue to support staff in ensuring that the guidance is followed in all healthcare settings.
Protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19
The ongoing restrictions have been difficult for everyone, but especially if you were identified as clinically extremely vulnerable and told you’re at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if you were to catch COVID-19.
The government has updated its guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to include advice on what to do to lower your risk of infection and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 once most legal restrictions end on Monday 19 July. It includes:
- ensuring you have your first and second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. For some with immunosuppression it may only be with your second dose that a significant immune response is triggered
- taking precautions when meeting people you don’t live with, such as meeting outside or somewhere well ventilated, continuing to socially distance or considering their vaccination status (single or double jabbed or not vaccinated)
- asking friends and family to take a lateral flow device (LFD) test before visiting you to check they don’t have coronavirus without realising
- going to the shops and pharmacy at quieter times of the day.
COVID-19 measures in care homes will continue beyond Monday 19 July
Devon’s care home providers say measures to control the spread of coronavirus will remain in place in care homes beyond Monday 19 July.
Care home providers say their residents are extremely vulnerable. Visits from family and friends are important but it is vital that they protect residents from COVID-19 and other infectious illnesses that are currently circulating in the community.
They say that care homes will continue following public health measures at a local level, to protect the health of their residents and staff. Those measures are likely to include the requirement for visitors to wear face coverings unless exempt, to socially distance, to wear personal protective equipment if needed, to follow hand hygiene guidance, and to check-in for Test and Trace purposes.
Concerns for pregnant women as restrictions ease
There are concerns that the combination of restrictions easing next week, increasing prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and hesitancy to get vaccinated will lead to a further increase in infections among pregnant women.
The warning comes from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
Pregnant women are at risk of getting severely ill with COVID-19, particularly in their third trimester. With a rise in COVID-19 cases across the UK, national data suggests the numbers of pregnant women being admitted to hospital each week are now more than three times greater than they were at the end of May.
Doctors and midwives are urging those who are pregnant, or considering pregnancy, to seriously consider getting the vaccine as soon as possible, and to book their second dose as soon as they are eligible. Evidence shows that having the COVID-19 jab is safe for pregnant women, and they should be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines where available.
They are also advising that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated pregnant women should take steps to avoid COVID-19 infection by continuing to practice social distancing, particularly in their third trimester. Everyone can help pregnant women stay safe by wearing face coverings in indoor spaces, taking tests as appropriate and self-isolating when required.