Health chiefs across the region have welcomed new measures designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 which come into effect across Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham from 00.01 hrs on Friday 18 September.
It is hoped the new arrangements will reduce the spread of Coronavirus and ultimately protect the NHS by minimising the number of people who will need hospital treatment across the region.
NHS leaders are also urging the public to use the NHS in the right way to help ease growing pressure on frontline teams and keep vital urgent and emergency care services free for those who really need them.
Given the rise in COVID-19 cases across local communities and the expected increase in seasonal viruses circulating at this time of year, people are being urged to follow clear NHS guidance in relation to Coronavirus.
Adults and children should only get tested for Coronavirus if they have any of the following three specific symptoms. This will help ensure tests are available for those who need them:
• a high temperature – you do not necessarily need to measure your temperature
• a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
• a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
Most people with Coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms. Children can get Coronavirus but they seem to get it less often than adults and it’s usually less serious. If you or your child has had a Coronavirus test, you MUST stay at home until you get your result. Anyone you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, MUST also stay at home until you get the result.
To access a Coronavirus test you MUST use the national NHS Test and Trace system by going online to www.nhs.uk or calling 119. Please do not call NHS 111, your GP practice or attend hospital to try and access a test. Appointments for Coronavirus testing can only be booked via the national NHS Test and Trace system. People are being advised to try the booking website or 119 at different times of the day if they are unable to secure an appointment on first attempt.
Professor Chris Gray, clinical lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System said: “We appreciate that people may have felt frustrated when trying to book a test for COVID-19 which is why we are seeing an increase in people trying to access tests through different parts of local NHS services. This is simply not appropriate and means our frontline teams are being distracted from delivering other important care to patients.
“As we head into autumn colds, sore throats and runny noses will all become more common, but they are not a reason to get a COVID-19 test. People need to look out for one or more of the key symptoms – high temperature, new persistent cough or loss of sense of taste or smell – and only then get tested, or if advised to by a health professional.”
Given the rise in recent cases and local restrictions announced by Government today across the North East, work is taking place with public health teams and with local and national partners to increase testing capacity in the region.
Health leaders are also reminding the public to continue to protect the NHS by following the rules of ‘six’ and the principles of hands, face, space by following key public health guidance:
• Wash hands regularly and thoroughly
• Observe social distancing rules
• Wear face masks or coverings in enclosed public spaces, including taxis
• If you have symptoms, self-isolate and get tested
• Adhere to the new local restrictions
Professor Chris Gray added: “NHS services remain open and are here for you despite the rise in COVID-19 and it’s vital that people continue attending their arranged appointments or seek medical help if they suspect they have an urgent need or significant concern regarding their health. This is particularly important for maternity services, people who may suspect cancer or already have existing long-term conditions.
“We must all continue protecting the NHS by keeping A&E free for serious emergencies. People must think pharmacy, GP or 111 first, and not just turn up to A&E. NHS A&E departments are designed to treat the most serious, life threatening conditions, so local organisations are asking the public to think very carefully before attending.”