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COVID-19 in Lewisham - 8 April update

Dr Catherine Mbema, our Director of Public Health, shares the latest update on coronavirus in our borough and the steps we can all take to help protect ourselves and everyone in our communities.

We’re slowly edging closer to more restrictions being eased and getting back to a routine that involves seeing more people, having conversations in-person and picking up activities that we have missed over the last few months. From next week, we can look forward to shops, hairdressers, barbers and gyms reopening as well as outdoor spaces in pubs, cafes and restaurants.

Social contact rules will remain in place and it’s really important to keep that safe 2m distance from other people; wash your hands regularly and wear a face covering. Meeting outdoors in a park, a garden or other public spaces is the safest way to catch up with friends and family.

Fancy a quieter space?

It is understandable to be wary about seeing other people after a full year of shielding or mostly staying in your own home. For some people, returning to work, meeting up with family and friends, going to the shops or even a walk in the park will be a daunting prospect.

Going outside for exercise and fresh air is important for everyone’s physical health and wellbeing. Here in Lewisham we are very lucky to be able to choose from 45 parks and green spaces.

If you’re looking for a quieter park, there are lots of more secluded green spaces to consider – perhaps Brookmill Park with its rivers, ponds and fountains; Chinbrook Meadows, a Green Flag award-winning park just beyond Lee in Grove Park, with the River Quaggy running through its spacious fields; the lower fields or wooded circular walk around in Forster Memorial Park south of Catford; or Ravensbourne Park Gardens. Take a look at what each of our parks has to offer – some have toilets open or a café for takeaway drinks and snacks.

Keeping it safe in the garden

I know how eager many of us are to reconnect with friends and family we might not have seen for many months, or even a year if they are considered vulnerable and were advised to shield. As restrictions ease, not everyone feels comfortable about quickly returning to life as before COVID-19.

Keep this in mind and think carefully about who you invite to meet, and what pressures an invitation might put on them. We all have different vulnerabilities to COVID-19 and varying views on the risks we’re prepared to take. Here are a couple of tips on safe socialising in your garden.

If you’re meeting in your garden remember that for six people in separate households to maintain a safe social distance, you’d need a very large space. Decide how many you can safely host by using a two-metre measure and turning in a circle – everyone you invite would need to be able to turn without bumping into one another. You don’t know how others will feel about larger groups so better to start small.

No doubt you will want to enjoy food and drink together but if alcohol is involved this can mean people let down their guard. If you’re organising the gathering, remember you can help influence this by signalling that it won’t be like normal gatherings. Maybe you want to think about arranging shorter visits. Spending an entire afternoon drinking in the garden is very different from an hour-long visit for a cup of coffee.

If it’s possible for visitors to get into the garden directly, do so. If visitors need to walk through your house, you can ask them to wear a face covering and go straight into the garden as quickly as possible.

However tempting it is to linger inside or head for a warmer space indoors, remember it is not permitted yet. Staying outdoors reduces the risk of spreading and catching coronavirus so keep yourselves and your loved ones safe. Plan ahead and have warm clothes - even blankets - to hand if you’re going to be sitting down outdoors. Moving around keeps you warmer, so maybe on colder days a walk in a park might be a better option if you want to meet and chat.

Make COVID-19 testing part of your routine

From Friday 9 April, rapid testing is available for everyone without COVID-19 symptoms.

Getting a rapid test (sometimes called a lateral flow test) is an essential part of the roadmap to restrictions being eased and is important alongside the roll out of the vaccination.

It is recommended you get tested twice a week. This helps to identify anyone who doesn’t have symptoms but may have coronavirus and will be spreading it without realising. Play your part in helping to keep Lewisham safe – get a rapid test to help prevent COVID-19 outbreaks and help us all get back to a more normal way of life.

You can get tested at one of four rapid test centres in the borough, or at work – if this is offered at your workplace; you can pick up test kits at a local collection point or order them online (if you can’t get to a test centre). Book a rapid test or find out where to collect tests or order for home delivery.

Lewisham’s secondary-age children, parents, carers and households of all children as well as key workers and volunteers have been taking rapid tests for several weeks. Now restrictions are starting to ease and more people are starting to meet, it’s time for everyone to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by getting tested regularly.

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