We would like to wish you all a happy New Year, and hope that you enjoyed the festive season while keeping safe in Leeds.
A lot has happened over the festive break, and this week we have an update for you on the current Covid situation in Leeds, the latest guidance from the Government on testing, and advice on keeping you and your loved ones safe as 2022 begins.
The new year is also bringing colder weather, so we have launched a new Winter Wellbeing webpage packed with practical information on how to keep warm, healthy and safe during the winter months.
The situation in Leeds
The number of Covid infections in England has increased significantly during the festive period, and figures from the Office for National Statistics reported that one in 15 people in England currently has Covid. The situation in Leeds is in line with this national picture, with Omicron now by far the most dominant variant in the city.
In line with many areas, the Covid rates for Leeds have increased significantly over the past seven days, and currently stand at 1775.2 per 100,000 people. This is an increase of 56 percent compared to the previous week.
These figures show clearly why it’s still so important that we all keep following the advice which will protect you, your family and friends, and your colleagues. Please remember to:
- Do a Lateral Flow Test if you’re planning to meet up with others or visit a public venue such as a restaurant – find out where to order or collect a free LFT pack at Testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
- Isolate if you test positive or have symptoms
- Get jabbed – two doses and the booster provide the best protection
- Have a mask handy in your bag or pocket when you go out, and wear it where it’s mandatory to do so
- Grab the app – don’t forget your NHS Covid Pass if you are attending a large venue or event. Go to www.nhs.uk
- Get some fresh air flowing if you’re meeting up with people indoors. This is more difficult in the colder weather, but if you can, try to open your windows regularly for 10 minutes
Wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitiser if hand washing facilities are not available, and keep surfaces sanitised and clean, including your workstation as well as your home.
Get jabbed and boost your winter immunity
With Omicron infection rates still rising, by far the best way to protect yourself is to have your Covid vaccinations. In all age groups, people are significantly protected by being boosted. If you haven’t had any of your vaccinations yet, it’s not too late; you can still arrange to have first, second and booster vaccinations.
If you are registered with a GP, you can book your vaccination online at www.nhs.uk. Or find a walk-in clinic in Leeds that’s convenient for you at Walk-in vaccination clinics – NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (leedsccg.nhs.uk)
You can also boost your immunity this winter by having the flu vaccination, which is offered free by the NHS to people who are at risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch the flu. Find out more about how to book your free flu jab at www.nhs.uk/wintervaccinations
Changes to testing for Covid
From Tuesday 11 January, there will be a change to Covid testing for people without symptoms.
If you have no symptoms but test positive using a lateral flow test, then you won’t need to arrange for a PCR test as well. However, you will still need to self-isolate and report your test result at www.gov.uk
This new arrangement will help to improve access to PCR tests for people with symptoms and for healthcare, transport and other key workers. It will be reviewed when the Covid infection rate in England falls below one percent.
Changes to guidance on isolation
Over the festive period, the Government also changed the guidance around the need to self-isolate if you have symptoms or have tested positive. You can stop self-isolating after 7 days if you do a Lateral Flow Test on days 6 and 7 of your self-isolation period and:
- both tests are negative
- you did both tests at least 24 hours apart
- you do not have a high temperature
If you do a rapid Lateral Flow Test on day 6 and test positive, wait 24 hours before you do the next test.
Testing is still vital to bringing down the number of infections and protecting ourselves and others, so please continue to test regularly, especially if you have symptoms, or are planning to meet up with others at a public venue or in their homes.
If you live with or have been in contact with someone who has Covid, you don’t have to isolate if you are not experiencing any symptoms and if any of the following apply to you:
- You’re fully vaccinated
- You’re under 18 years and 6 months old
- You’re taking part in or have taken part in an approved Covid vaccine trial
- You can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.
However, even if you don’t have symptoms, you’re advised to do daily Lateral Flow Tests for 7 days.
For more information on the latest Government guidance, visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Latest round of business grants open
Businesses in Leeds are being encouraged to apply for fresh funding support from two recently launched schemes to help them deal with the continuing financial challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The schemes are set to deliver additional help as the local business community weighs up the impact of recently-imposed restrictions designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The first scheme is aimed at Leeds-based businesses in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sector, with one-off grants on offer worth up to £6,000. The application deadline is Monday 28 February.
The second scheme is aimed at Leeds-based businesses and charities from any sector, with discretionary grants ranging from £1,000 to £15,000 on offer to help cover fixed overheads such as service charges and commercial vehicle leasing costs. The application deadline is Monday 31 January. Find out more at https://www.leeds.gov.uk/coronavirus/grants-for-businesses
Keep warm and well this winter
The colder weather is already with us, but are you well prepared? The good news is that there are some simple steps we can all take to stay well this winter. We have launched a new webpage where you can find out information on how to protect yourself and family and friends this winter, at www.leeds.gov.uk/winterwellbeing
- Boost your immunity! Make sure you have your Covid-19 and flu jab if eligible
- Keep warm. Heat your home to at least 18 degrees, wear layers of clothing and seek help if you’re struggling with fuel bills
- Stay healthy and fit, be aware of slips and trips. Keep active to build your strength and balance and seek help if you’re worried about a fall
- Make sure you have regular hot food, drinks and snacks
- Reach out, you are not alone! Connect to your local community, see friends or family, take up a new hobby or activity. If you are struggling with your mental health, there are organisations in Leeds which offer confidential support, including telephone support lines and Mental Health Hubs for young adults. Mental health advice for young people can be found at MindMate – Emotional wellbeing and mental health and there is more about mental health support services more generally at Mental health services (leeds.gov.uk)
During the colder weather, many of us spend more time indoors, but having the heating on for longer and paying higher fuel bills can be a worry for many people. If you’re worried about paying your utility bills, or have other money issues, you can find helpful advice on our Money Information Centre webpage, at Welcome to the Money Information Centre (leeds.gov.uk)
In the longer term, it might be worth thinking about how you can make your home more fuel efficient.
This winter, we are working with Better Homes Yorkshire to help low-income homeowners stay warm and reduce their energy bills by fitting free solar panels and/or insulation to suitable properties. To find out more about this limited-time scheme and see if you qualify, go to https://news.leeds.gov.uk/news/leeds-homeowners-encouraged-to-apply-for-free-solar-panels-and-home-insulation-before-scheme-ends
Beware of NHS Covid Pass fraud
People using the NHS App to create an NHS Covid Pass are being warned about fraudsters. Scammers are contacting people over email, text and telephone, asking for money and banking details to ‘buy’ an NHS Covid Pass.
The NHS Covid Pass is free, and the NHS will never ask for payment or your personal financial details. Find out more about the NHS Covid Pass at www.nhs.uk/NHSCovidPass