Hertfordshire public health chief urges caution as Covid restrictions lifted

Jim McManus has stressed that 'the pandemic has not ended'

By Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Monday, 24th January 2022, 10:17 am
Updated Monday, 24th January 2022, 10:18 am

Hertfordshire's top public health chief Jim McManus is urging residents to “remain cautious and not to be complacent”, as the government eases Covid-19 restrictions – stressing that, “the pandemic has not ended”.

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson immediately halted the ‘Plan B’ advice for people to work from home, if possible.

And he signalled that from this Thursday (January 27) face coverings would no longer be mandatory in public places and Covid passports would be dropped.

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Hertfordshire's top public health chief Jim McManus is urging residents to “remain cautious and not to be complacent”

Nevertheless latest data shows that in the last week (ending January 15) there were more than 10,000 people diagnosed with Covid 19 in Hertfordshire – equivalent to a rate per 100,000 of 840.3.

And director of public health Jim McManus – who is also president of the Association of Directors of Public Health – is urging caution.

He suggests residents should continue with regular lateral flow testing and to wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces.

And – pointing to data that shows unvaccinated people who catch Covid are EIGHT times more likely to end up in hospital – he is also urging residents to ensure they are fully vaccinated.

“As restrictions are lifted, we want people to remain cautious and not to be complacent,” said Mr McManus.

“We are still seeing high numbers of cases and people needing hospital treatment in Hertfordshire.

“We are urging people who have not been vaccinated or had their booster jabs, to do so as soon as possible, it remains the best way to protect themselves and others from getting seriously ill.

“NHS data shows that unvaccinated people who get COVID-19 are about eight times more likely to be hospitalised than those who are fully vaccinated.”

Mr McManus says behaviour change and high numbers of people coming forward for booster jabs have been key to the way ‘we have got through this latest surge in cases’.

And as restrictions are about to end, he says: “We are also encouraging residents to continue testing regularly with LFTs, to take a PCR test if they have symptoms, and to wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet.

“The pandemic has not ended, so as we move to this new phase of living safely with COVID-19, let’s keep looking out for one another and recognise that we’re all going to be moving forward at our own pace.”

Meanwhile Mr McManus says public health officials are already working closely with schools and businesses to help them to understand and implement the changes, announced by the government.

And he said that while the government had removed the requirement for pupils to wear face coverings in classrooms, schools would have the discretion to reintroduce them when there were outbreaks.

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Staff at Hertfordshire County Council may not be returning to business as usual, following the government’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions – as council bosses look set to promote a mix of remote and office working.

On Thursday, January 20, the ‘Plan B’ advice to work from home if possible was lifted – opening the way for staff to return to offices.

But those office-based employees at Hertfordshire County Council – one of the largest employers in the county – are still being advised to adopt a more hybrid model of working.

And they are being advised to continue to wear face coverings in some circumstances too.

“In our offices, we are now encouraging staff to return to a mixture of remote and office-based working depending on the service they are delivering and the needs of their role,” said Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus.

“For those who will be using our offices going forward we are still encouraging certain precautions such as face coverings in communal areas.”