The ending of COVID-19 legal restrictions from Thursday has been acknowledged as a significant step forward for local people and businesses, but health leaders are highlighting that sensible precautions will remain in place within health care settings to protect vulnerable patients and staff.
In response to the government announcement, Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System, says: “The last two years have been an incredibly challenging time, and I want to say again how grateful I am to staff and volunteers for all they have done to implement one of the most successful vaccination programmes in the country.
“Without their hard work and commitment, we would not be at this stage where we can start to think of life getting back to normal, but it’s so important we continue to think of others and do all we can to protect our communities.”
Dr Richard West MBE, GP partner at Woolpit Health Centre, says: “We must remember that COVID-19 has not gone away. It is still with us and still threatens our health and wellbeing, which is why all GP practices will still require those entering their buildings to wear a face covering. This requirement will remain in place after Thursday as we must continue to protect our most vulnerable patients, who are at risk of serious illness, and protect our staff so that NHS services can continue to be provided.”
Giles Thorpe is chief nurse at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Colchester and Ipswich hospitals and community services in north east Essex and east Suffolk. He said: “All our existing COVID-19 safety advice remains the same inside our hospitals and in the community.
“We are still asking our staff, patients and visitors to wear a surgical face mask, wash or sanitise their hands regularly and keep a safe distance from other people. Our restricted visiting policy is also unchanged for now.
“As always, we continue to follow all the national guidance available to us to keep patients, visitors, and staff safe – this is our top priority.
“We are so grateful to our communities for playing their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and for their ongoing patience, support and understanding so we can keep everyone safe in our hospitals and services.”
Sue Wilkinson, chief nurse at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said: “The residents of west Suffolk have been brilliant since the pandemic began in helping their local hospital and community stay safe.
“Although the government has updated their guidance this week, we await clarification on specific measures and guidelines for healthcare settings. Until there are any specific updates for healthcare settings, we request that anyone attending our hospital follows our current guidance for visiting.”
It important that those eligible continue to come forward for vaccination, and there will still be many walk-in clinics taking place across the patch, whether it’s a 1 st , 2 nd , 3 rd , 4 th or booster vaccination. In the spring the vaccination programme will begin offering the second booster dose for the most vulnerable in our communities.
Visit www.sneevaccine.org.uk for trusted facts, eligibility information and locations of walk-in clinics.