Opinion: Two steps forward in the road back to 'normality'

The Covid jab is one of our biggest routes back to normality

The Covid jab is one of our biggest routes back to normality - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This week saw us take two big steps towards a return to normality after Covid. 

The first was the relaxation of the self-isolation rules, while the other is making the vaccination available to 16 and 17-year-olds. 

From yesterday, the double-jabbed and anyone aged under 18 are now no longer required by law to isolate for 10 days if they come into close contact with someone who has Covid. 

Instead, they will be advised to take a PCR test - and only if that test comes back positive will they then be required to isolate. 

I understand how being ‘pinged’ by the NHS app and being told to isolate after being near someone who has the virus has been a source of great frustration for many. 

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It has caused disruption to things like holiday plans and affect businesses whose staff are unable to work from home, so the change in the rules is welcome. 

Preventing spread of the virus is crucial in our fight against it and, before the vaccine became as widely available as it is now, isolating people who may have been exposed to it was a way of doing this, however blunt a weapon it may have seemed. 

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Thankfully the success of the vaccine programme means we now no longer have to tell people to do this. 

We know that the vaccine rollout has saved many thousands of lives and prevented millions of infections and will continue to do so. 

Here in Suffolk nearly 75% of the 656,329 eligible residents in the county have received their second jab, which is a very encouraging figure. 

But the more people we vaccinate the better, which is why I welcome opening the programme up to young people aged 16 and 17. With this age group set to return to college or sixth form in the next few weeks we need to get as many jabs in their arms as possible. 

There is now an online tool for people to locate their nearest walk-in centre and 16 and 17-year-olds will soon be able to make a vaccination appointment through the national booking system. 

To their credit, tens of thousands of young people nationally have already been vaccinated of their own volition and it is very encouraging that they have done so. 

But for those wondering why it is necessary, vaccinating young people not only gives them direct protection against symptomatic infection, it also reduces the risk of outbreaks thus allowing more students to remain in college or sixth form and reduce days off because of Covid. 

This year and last we saw the huge disruption that was caused to young people’s education by Covid.  So many were forced to isolate, while classes had to continue online as teachers did their best to keep lessons going.  

Therefore, huge credit should go to every A level student who managed to get their grades last week despite having to study in such difficult circumstances – I congratulate them all. 

In summary, these are two very welcome developments indeed, but this is still no time for complacency.  The virus remains very much out there and even the double-vaccinated can still catch it and pass it on to others. 

I urge you to continue exercise caution as we move forward in this next phase of life after coronavirus and follow the theme of the Suffolk County Council ‘Kindness’ campaign which is to be Covid-considerate to others. 

Please do continue to wear a mask where appropriate, keep distancing and washing your hands, and test regularly. 

Also, please follow the instructions of places such as shops, restaurants, and events to keep yourself and others safe and to help our businesses bounce back and flourish as they open up again. 

It is by continuing to look out for each other and following these few simple steps that we will continue to rebuild and return to our normal way of life once more. 

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