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Update from Martin Tett

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Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, has published the following update on the ongoing Covid vaccination programme.

The NHS is carrying on working down the vaccine priority list. People aged 65 and over can now book a vaccine via the national system without having to wait for a letter — you can do this here on the NHS website. If you are 65 or over and would rather get your vaccine via your GP then please still wait for them to contact you.

If you're aged 70 or over and haven't had your vaccine yet then you don't have to wait to be asked — please book online, call 119 or contact your GP to arrange an appointment. Everyone aged 70 and over and the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable should have been invited by now and the NHS is following up with anyone who hasn't been vaccinated yet, as well as going out to housebound patients. If you are in this group and for whatever reason, you haven't yet had your vaccine, please contact the NHS to organise it.

Note from Editor:
Those aged 65 and over can also book a Covid vaccination now. Do so here

You may have seen that yesterday the Government added a further 1.7 million people to the 'shielding' list, as they are now taking in other risk factors such as age, ethnicity and weight when evaluating how vulnerable a person is to COVID-19. Any Bucks residents who fall into this group will get a letter from the NHS explaining that they will now be advised to 'shield' and will be eligible for added support as a result, such as priority shopping slots; plus they will be eligible to receive a vaccine now.

The vaccine is safe

It's effective and it will offer you the best possible protection against COVID-19, which as we know, carries significant health risks especially amongst the elderly and vulnerable. If you want to know more about how the vaccine works then our NHS colleagues at Buckinghamshire CCG have put a great short video on their website, answering some common questions. If you've got any concerns about the vaccine this film is also well worth a watch to allay some common fears, especially amongst our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic residents, and to remind us all why it's so important to take up the vaccine offer.

I'd also like to urge health and social care staff to come forward for a vaccine if you've not had it already. Please contact your employer if you work in this sector and if you're self-employed please email us at COVIDvaccination@buckinghamshire.gov.uk. Having your COVID-19 vaccine will help protect you and the people you are looking after.

Some important reminders

If you have had your vaccine then please remember that you must still follow the rules and continue to socially distance and to stay at home. Infection rates remain high and, as yet, we still don't have reliable data on whether people who've been vaccinated can still pass on the disease even if they have protection from getting seriously ill themselves.

And finally, a word of warning; you might be aware of some scams circulating that are asking people to pay for a vaccine. Please remember, the NHS will never ask for your bank details and will not ask you to pay for a vaccine. If in doubt, please ask someone you trust to take a look if you've had an email. Don't commit to anything over the phone unless you're sure who's making the call.

Book a test if you're leaving home to work or volunteer

We now have rapid testing sites in Aylesbury and High Wycombe for people who are leaving their homes to go to work or to volunteer to get tested for COVID-19 if they don't have symptoms. I've been myself and while doing the swab is a bit uncomfortable, it's really quick, easy and straightforward. These rapid lateral flow tests will help us detect infections in people who don't have symptoms so please do come and get a test if you can't work from home or are going out to volunteer. You can read more and book online on our website.

These rapid tests are not for people who do have symptoms of COVID-19. If you feel unwell or even have very mild symptoms and suspect you might have COVID then please book a test via the national system online or by calling 119. It's essential that you and everyone you live with isolates immediately. If you are on a low income and can't work from home while you're isolating you might qualify for a self-isolation payment of £500. We need everyone with symptoms to stay at home and avoid seeing others to stop the chains of transmission.

Current situation in Bucks

We are pleased to see cases continue to fall across Buckinghamshire as the lockdown continues; a huge thank you to everyone for sticking to the national guidance as we all work hard together to get these figures down further still. As ever, you can get information on the latest local case numbers on our COVID-19 dashboard and on the Government's website. We will all have a better sense of how the country will come out of the lockdown when the government publishes its roadmap next week.

However, please remember that infection levels are currently still high and now is not the time to start taking any chances, so please do keep following all the current lockdown guidance to the letter. We can see our way out of this, which is great news, but we cannot risk letting infections spread amongst the many people who have not yet been vaccinated.

If you own a business that's suffered because of the current restrictions please don't forget we still have grant schemes open that you may be eligible for — please take a look on our website at the support for businesses section.

We've all made many sacrifices and are all missing out on doing many of the things we love during this lockdown. It's hard to single out any specific groups as everyone is doing their bit in their own way, from shop workers, to delivery drivers, to police officers, to nursery staff, to volunteers, to unpaid carers, to grandparents not seeing their grandchildren, to people not seeing their friends and loved ones and the very many others too.

I also want to say a huge thank you to all educators and school staff who are teaching remotely whilst keeping schools open for vulnerable and key worker children, and to parents, carers and of course, children who are working so hard with home learning. The first half of this school term has not been easy so thank you and well done for all you are doing.

And to anyone who's struggling — please reach out if you need some support. There's plenty of info on our website and in the Bucks Online Directory and Health and Wellbeing Bucks is also a great starting point if you're feeling low. If you need support with food or energy bills please get in touch with our Helping Hand team; they're ready to offer advice and support including food vouchers for eligible families during the school holidays.

Stay safe and look after yourselves and each other,

Martin Tett
Leader of Buckinghamshire Council
17 February 2021