Out with the old and in with the new! We’re looking forward to a new year, but let’s make sure we celebrate safely!

Covid thrives in the cold weather, so now is the time to start taking steps to prevent its spread so we can all enjoy seeing in the New Year.

Ushering out the old one (bye bye 2021!) and welcoming in the new year is a terrific time for socialising – welcoming family to your home and enjoying parties with friends.

But when making your New Year plans, take time to ensure that you and your loved ones stay safe. Despite the incredible success of the vaccine programme – including the booster jabs – Covid still poses a very real threat, and because of the new Omicron variant, new rules have been introduced in England.

In winter, the risk of becoming infected with Covid becomes even greater as we huddle together inside because of the cold. Indoors, droplets containing coronavirus can hang around for much longer, waiting to be inhaled and infect the recipient, who may then pass it on to others. That’s not a gift anyone wants.

Yet thanks to our festive traditions, it’s a very real possibility. We’re much more likely to catch Covid at this time because we gather in groups and travel on crowded public transport to celebrate with large groups of friends and family.

So now is the time to plan how to keep yourself, your loved ones and everyone else safe.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, says: ‘While vaccines are offering us good protection, Covid-19 is still with us. 

‘Stay safe by taking simple but effective steps like wearing a face covering in crowded indoor spaces, testing regularly, ventilating rooms where possible and getting a booster or vaccine when offered. By doing this, we can reduce the spread of the virus and keep ourselves and others safer.’

Here’s what you need to do:

TAKE A TEST BEFORE GOING OUT

Before you go out to anything that involves lots of people, whether that’s hitting the January sales, a party or to see family, make sure you – and anyone else who’s going – perform a rapid lateral flow test to check if you have the virus. It’s the best way to prevent the spread of Covid.

Free rapid lateral flow tests can be picked up from pharmacies after getting a ‘collect code’ from gov.uk. They are incredibly quick and simple to do – you’ll get your result within 30 minutes.

If you don’t test positive, you are free to carry on your day while still following other Covid restrictions and measures. But if it is positive – and it’s worth remembering around a third of infected people don’t show any symptoms but can pass it on to others – then cancel your outing, self-isolate and book a PCR test at gov.uk. But whether the result is positive or negative, you must log your result at gov.uk.

It’s also worth taking a test if you are meeting someone who is more vulnerable to Covid – the elderly and those with an underlying health condition, who are likely to become severely ill if they become infected.

The Covid Pass on the NHS Covid app is mandatory for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather (including unseated indoor events with 500 or more people, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more people and any event with 10,000 or more people).

The pass demonstrates proof of two vaccine doses; proof of a negative rapid lateral flow test will also be accepted.

And remember to let anyone coming to see you from abroad know that they must have proof of a negative test two days before travel and complete a passenger locator form. A PCR test should then be taken by day two after arrival into the UK.

GOOD VENTILATION

You’re not the only one circulating at a party – the air should be, too. Keeping doors and windows open when people from different households are mixing is key to staying safe as it disperses the virus before it can be inhaled.

If it’s too cold to properly air a room, opening doors and windows for even for just ten minutes as many times as you can will help.

COVER YOUR FACE IN A CROWD

Face coverings are a good way to reduce transmission, so it’s a good idea to wear one in busy public settings. They are now compulsory in most public indoor venues, such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship. A full list of where it is required to wear a face covering is available at gov.uk.

And make sure you wash your hands regularly for the recommended 20 seconds to avoid catching or passing on Covid this way.

HAVE YOUR BOOSTER VACCINE

The UK’s vaccine programme has been a game changer that’s allowed us to live fairly normal lives most of this year. But it’s vital that we keep up to date with our booster jabs if this is to continue.

In light of the spread of the new Omicron variant, the Government has expanded the booster programme to include all adults aged 18 and above, and announced that all eligible people will be offered a top-up jab by the end of January.

And don’t forget to take up any invitation to have the flu jab to keep yourself well and – like the Covid jab – help take the pressure off the NHS this Christmas.

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