Young people in Oxfordshire are being encouraged to take all precautions not to contract COVID-19, get their vaccination as soon as it is offered and make sure they are regularly getting tested.
This supports the government’s decision to postpone the final step of its roadmap until 19 July to stop the spread of the new Delta variant and buy more time for more people to get vaccinated.
By 19 July, the government aims to have double jabbed around two-thirds of the adult population, including everyone over 40 who received their first dose by mid-May. And it will accelerate the second jabs for those over 40, so they get maximum protection as fast as possible.
The target to give every adult a first dose is also being brought forward to 19 July, which includes young people over the age of 18. Those aged 21 to 24 can now book their vaccination to reduce the risk of transmission among groups that mix the most.
Around one-third of cases in recent weeks in Oxfordshire have been in the 16 to 29 age group – with similar trends being experienced elsewhere as cases across the country have risen during June.
Ansaf Azhar, Director for Public Health at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “While ever-growing numbers of people have had the vaccination, there are still large numbers of people who have yet to have their first jab.
“On Monday, the prime minister announced that the last stage of the lockdown would be delayed as a result of a rapid rise in cases nationally as a result of the Delta variant of the virus. The government will now accelerate the vaccination programme to try to get ahead of the new variant. So it’s essential that people take advantage of the vaccine offer as soon as it is made.
“It’s great news that 21 to 24 year olds are now able to join 25 to 29 year olds in having their first dose. It’s key that these young people get vaccinated to help us stop the spread of the virus, locally and nationally.
“It’s really important that everyone remembers that the full effectiveness of the first dose does not kick in until three to four weeks after the jab has been administered.
“I’d also like to remind those who have already had their first dose to make sure they have their second dose booked. The second dose is crucial in giving people stronger and longer-lasting protection from the virus.
“Bit by bit, we are increasing our resistance to the virus, but we are not there yet. The Delta variant has brought complications for us. Here in Oxfordshire, the 16 to 29 year old age group is a particular focus for us now. I urge everyone in this age group, and others too, to remember the old mantra of hands, face, space and fresh air, and that outdoors is far safer than indoors.
“If this is a race between the vaccine and the variant – it is our behaviour as individuals, friends, colleagues, communities and families that can give the vaccine the edge in that race.”
In response to the lockdown step 3 extension, Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “I know this is a frustrating time for many, but we have to make responsible decisions to manage the current situation, and I support the extension of restrictions to manage the Delta variant.
“But I want to be clear that responsibility for the current situation lies with the government. Yet again, they dithered when decisive action was needed, rather than act quickly to restrict people coming into the UK from countries where the Delta variant was prevalent.
“I am really concerned about the impact on many hospitality businesses. Not just those that won’t open for another month, but many had been relying on the next reopening to start fully covering costs and begin turning a profit. Please support your local businesses, use your cafes, pubs and restaurants, and show your respect and support for their staff by following the guidance.
“Oxford City Council is doing what it can to support businesses in the current situation, providing more outside hospitality space and licences, and supporting our outdoor markets and traders. But the government needs to do more. Every penny of our business support funding is spent or allocated, and government support begins to drop off from July. If the government can provide additional funds, then we will get those out to businesses promptly.
“To our residents, I want to remind them that by following the guidance, together we have saved many lives and reduced hospital admissions. I urge everyone to continue to stick to the guidance to help the vaccine roll out to reach as many as possible before the virus does.
“There are still so many things we can enjoy. Our shops are open, we can socialise indoors, visit cafes, restaurants, museums, cinemas, bars. We can hug our loved ones, stay overnight, visit friends in other places. We can enjoy these freedoms, taking care of each other by sticking to the guidance – that means continuing social distancing, wearing masks in public places and working from home where possible.
“Yesterday the government made it clear that the next four weeks would see a huge push to get first vaccines out to all over-18s, and second doses to over-50s. The scientists tell us we are in a race between vaccine roll out and virus spread. Please all keep to the guidance so that the vaccine roll out wins the race.”
The government‘s announcement on Monday did not include any new support to businesses or an extension of existing measures to support those unable to reopen or open at maximum capacity.
Latest figures (reported up to 10 Jun) show that the overall case rate in Oxfordshire stands at 41.3 per 100,000. By district, the figures are as follows:
- Oxford 63.6 per 100,000
- Cherwell 39.2 per 100,000
- South Oxfordshire 44.3 per 100,000
- Vale of White Horse 23.5 per 100,000
- West Oxfordshire 31.6 per 100,000