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Shropshire hospitals director: 'The threat is not over'

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Medical director for The Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust, Dr Arne Rose, warns that while lockdown measures may be easing, the virus has not gone away.

Dr Arne Rose

It is now 100 days since the UK’s ‘lockdown’ began. One hundred days that changed the way we live our lives.

And while, on Saturday, we will see restrictions eased further in England, it is important that we recognise that things have not gone back to ‘normal’ and the virus has not gone away.

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Most of you will have seen or heard the news about the major incident that was declared in Bournemouth during last week’s heatwave as thousands of people crowded on to the beach.

Closer to home, police in Telford were called to a gathering of about 100 cars when enthusiasts met up on an industrial estate.

While these may be isolated incidents, it is clear that many people believe the threat posed by Covid-19 is over. An RAC poll suggests that, on Saturday, 31 per cent of car users will be out on the roads – about 10.5 million cars – as overnight stays are permitted.

The threat is not over. The virus has not grown weaker. It can still be transmitted from person to person just as easily as when we entered lockdown in March.

The lockdown measures were needed because the UK had to respond rapidly to the spread of the virus. With the testing and tracing system now in place, it is now possible to ease those restrictions – but only because of other measures designed to protect you and others. These include social distancing, the use of face coverings and remaining at home as much as possible and restricting contact with other people.

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You only need to look at what’s happening in Leicester to know that the risk is not over and that, unless we are very careful, the virus could affect more people and some of the restored freedoms that we’re all starting to enjoy could be taken away again.

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We continue to see Covid-positive patients in our hospitals but, thankfully, this number is falling, as is the number of people who are becoming seriously unwell and the number of people dying.

However, we are not being complacent. We remain alert with restrictions in place – both for patients and staff – to keep the spread down.

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We are also continuing to offer antibody tests for our staff, with more than 2,700 people tested so far. The testing has now been expanded beyond colleagues on the ‘frontline’ to take in some of our ‘back office’ staff, who are equally vital to keeping our hospitals running.

We continue to look to do things differently as we deal with this pandemic. As well as virtual appointments, which I have mentioned previously, last week we also held our first virtual community engagement event, which went incredibly well. We want to continue to work with our communities to make sure we are still able to listen to what they have to say, so being able to make this happen has been a great addition to the work that goes on behind-the-scenes. We are still receiving incredible support from our communities in terms of donations of items and people raising money for our charity, so once again, thank you.

Finally, a reminder that on Sunday, the NHS will be 72 years old and to mark the occasion a final ‘clap for carers’, and other key workers, will be taking place at 5pm. I will be joining in to thank everyone who has responded to this pandemic. I hope you will too.

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