Yesterday, as a nation, we reflected on a year of Covid – 12 months to the day since the first national lockdown was announced.
It came as we prepare to see further relaxation of the latest lockdown in England.
From Monday, the ‘stay at home’ rule will end. Groups of six people or two households will be able to meet outdoors, including in private gardens and outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen.
This, of course, comes at the start of the Easter holidays.
I repeat the plea I made before Christmas: although the rules have been relaxed, please think not about what you can do, but what you should do.
Even if you have had one or both doses of the vaccine, it is important to still follow the guidelines on face coverings and social distancing. We have all made a lot of sacrifices to get to where we are now – we can’t afford those sacrifices to be for nothing.
Although the ‘stay at home’ rule will end, people are still asked to continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes.
Since the start of the pandemic, sadly more than 550 people at our acute hospitals have lost their lives to Covid-19. Across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, the number of deaths is close to 900. This is a tragic loss of life, but we are beginning to see signs of hope.
The number of people with the virus in our local communities continues to fall and the number of cases in our hospitals is, for the first time in a very long time, into single figures.
In Shropshire, we continue to vaccinate eligible groups at an incredible pace.
'A first step'
As we take the first small steps back to normality in our daily lives, we in the NHS are also beginning to return to some of the things we did before the pandemic.
One of the most important things for our patients is the return of visitors to their bedsides.
You may have seen that the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital near Oswestry this week began to allow a single named visitor for some inpatients.
The change does not represent a return to business as usual, as visiting will still be largely limited, in order to minimise any risk of Covid-19 being taken onto the hospital site, but it is a first step.
As an acute hospital trust which has seen the majority of serious coronavirus cases, a return to any sort of visiting is more complex for us, but we are currently working to see how and when we can begin some sort of visiting arrangements at the Royal Shrewsbury and Princess Royal hospitals and we will, of course, announce that as soon as we have plans in place.
I’m sure none of us imagined we would still be in lockdown 12 months after the first restrictions were announced. I’m certain none of us want to go back into another lockdown.
So we must continue to follow the rules, and use our own common sense, as we move into the next phase.