'Covid isn't going away,' says Sunderland health chief

‘Covid isn’t going away’, health chiefs have warned Sunderland’s families.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 6:22 pm
Updated Friday, 12th March 2021, 4:02 pm

Months of lockdown and the roll out of vaccines have seen infection rates steadily declining across Wearside, along with ‘significant’ falls in the number of people dying from the virus or needing hospital treatment.

But recent success in fighting off the disease has prompted concerns the city could go into reverse if it is used as an excuse to flout restrictions.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Covid-19 mobile testing site at the Silksworth Wellness Centre. Health chiefs have warned we will still be living with the disease for some time.

“Obviously, the rates are coming down, you’ve got the Prime Minister’s roadmap, vaccinations are rolling out,” said city councillor Neil MacKnight.

“But the concern I have is that there’s a sense almost in the community that we’ve got this thing beaten and the worry is that people are maybe being a little bit premature.”

Cllr MacKnight was speaking at a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Almost 96,000 people in the city have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with about 2,880 second jabs scheduled to be delivered this week.

The government hopes to have scaled back infections rates enough by June 21 to scrap all current restrictions on social contact.

But health chiefs have repeatedly warned none of the dates for the phased reopening of the country are ‘set in stone’ and are all dependent on the existing scheme going to plan.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 41% of over 80s surveyed admitted breaking lockdown rules after receiving their first vaccine jab.

Gerry Taylor, the city council’s director of public health and integrated commissioning, said: “We are doing very well and that’s thanks to all of the efforts of all of Sunderland’s residents and the fact that people have clearly been following the national stay at home guidelines.

“[But] we need to continue to follow those guidelines because there is a risk that we will see an increase in cases as people are able to do more things, as things open up, as the restrictions ease.

“We all still need to make sure that we’re keeping our distance, wearing face coverings, washing our hands.

“Things are better, the vaccination programme has been brilliant, but COVID isn’t going away.”

Support your Echo and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news, the latest on SAFC and new puzzles every day. With a digital subscription, you can see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.