This week we have reached another key milestone on the road to something approaching normality.
You don’t need me to tell you that on Monday there was a further easing of restrictions as we move out of lockdown, with all ‘non-essential’ retail opening up, along with gyms, hairdressers, as well as pubs and restaurants being allowed to serve food and drink outside.
The images across the media show how desperately people wanted to get back to doing these things, particularly because of the social aspect of shopping, eating and drinking with friends and family.
We must, however, continue to exercise caution.
The roadmap out of lockdown is contingent on the Covid-19 infection rate continuing to fall, and that will only happen if we maintain the things that we have been doing up to now – social distancing, wearing face masks when we need to, and regularly and thoroughly washing our hands.
This applies even if you have had both of your coronavirus vaccine shots. The vaccine continues to be a key element in our fight against coronavirus.
The first dose of the vaccine offers a great deal of protection, but it is vitally important to receive both doses to give the maximum protection possible.
You may have seen stories in the media related to the AstraZeneca vaccine and a specific type of clot in the brain. This vaccine has been associated with a very small number of “sinus venous thrombosis”, which is a clot in the large veins of the skins surrounding the brain. I want to stress that this is not the same as a stroke.
The risk of this specific type of clot is only known to be with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Any such risk must be taken seriously, but it is important to note that this particular risk affects about one in 600,000 people.
Compare that to the total number of people across Shropshire we want to vaccinate, which is fewer than 500,000. When you consider the risk of dying if you contract Covid-19 is about one in 1,000, I am sure you would agree with me that taking the vaccine is an easy choice.
I am really pleased to say that at our two acute hospitals cases of Covid-19 have continued to fall.
We have managed to close all of the outbreaks on our wards, and the number of Covid-positive patients we are treating has remained below five for some time.
However, like you, we must not become complacent. We are still following the same practices that we have been observing and still have the same high, medium, and low-risk pathways in place.
We are still looking into ways in which we can allow some visiting to return to our hospitals and we are so grateful to the relatives and friends of our patients for the understanding they continue to show.
Over the winter months, high levels of Covid-19 activity unfortunately resulted in continuing delays for routine treatments and the loss of capacity for some of our more urgent cases as we expanded our critical care capacity.
We are now in the process of restoring a number of these services and are prioritising our cancer and urgent surgery patients.