The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging people to continue to be vigilant for COVID-19 as rates in Northern Ireland remain higher than elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Dr David Cromie, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “It is vital that we all do as much as we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 infection. This is a serious disease and people are still dying or becoming very unwell.
“We need everyone to continue to follow the public health advice, get tested if they are symptomatic, and engage with the Contact Tracing Centre (CTS) if they test positive for COVID-19. If you haven’t yet received your COVID-19 vaccine, make arrangements to get it as soon as possible, as the vaccine will help prevent you from becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19, and also help keep vulnerable members of our community safe.
“Testing continues to be a vital tool in the fight against COVID-19. If you are symptomatic, please isolate and get tested, as there’s no way of knowing if you have COVID-19 if you don’t get tested, and it also means that we can’t alert your close contacts. Testing is available at various locations across Northern Ireland. The CTS is still phoning positive cases so expect to be contacted by one of the CTS team if you test positive. Please answer when we do call and, if you can, complete digital self-trace using the unique code that you will be sent, so we can alert your close contacts quickly and help stop the spread. We are asking everyone to familiarise themselves with the guidance for positive cases and save the CTS number – (028) 9536 8888 – to their phone so they know who it is trying to call them. We will leave a voice message where we can.
“It is also important to be open about your contacts and where you have been to help us stop transmission. Contact tracing will only ever be effective if the information provided to us is accurate and given in a timely manner, so please be open about who you’ve been in contact with – the information will be handled confidentially.
“We have been enhancing the service’s workforce every week, adding additional capacity to the operation in anticipation of case numbers growing, but we need people to work with us and share as much information as possible.
“There are also proactive steps we should all be taking to help avoid getting the virus in the first place – aside from the key steps of social distancing, handwashing and using a face covering where appropriate, vaccine uptake is an important means of securing protection against COVID-19 infection. The number of people who are eligible to get vaccinated continues to grow, so if you haven’t yet got your first dose, do so now.
“We understand that some may be nervous about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, as there is a lot of misinformation out there and it is very easy to be put off by stories that you read online. However, the vaccine is safe and it will help protect you from becoming seriously unwell if you are to contract COVID-19. If you have worries, talk through these concerns with a healthcare provider and get the facts on the vaccine from a reliable source such as the PHA.”
For information on testing, contact tracing and COVID-19 vaccination see www.pha.site/coronavirus