PEOPLE should not be getting Covid complacent due to the roll-out of vaccines across the country, a north west health chief has warned.

Dr Andrew Furber, regional director of public health in the region for Public Health England, is appealing for everyone to follow the rules and stay home as much as possible to help save lives.

Most people have not yet been vaccinated and will still be at risk of contracting Covid-19 for some time, he has warned, with case rates in the north west rapidly increasing.

Particular concern has been directed towards the 17-21 age group, which saw a 150 per cent increase in cases in the north west in the past week.

“While it is encouraging that vaccines are now being rolled out, people must not become complacent by thinking this pandemic is nearing the end. We have a long way to go,” Dr Furber said.

“No vaccines are 100 per cent effective, but people who have received them are at a greatly reduced risk, so even for those who have been immunised, there is still a small risk of infection.

St Helens Star: Dr Andrew Furber, regional director of public health in the region for Public Health EnglandDr Andrew Furber, regional director of public health in the region for Public Health England

“There was a marked jump in Covid-19 cases after Christmas, and this is showing no signs of slowing.

“It will take another week or two before infections caught during the festive period translate into people getting ill and being hospitalised.”

The increase in cases among 17 to 21-year-olds has been attributed to being more likely to work in close contact jobs such as retail or socialising together, particularly during the festive period.

Dr Furber has warned that while people of this age are less likely to experience severe symptoms, they can transmit the virus to other more vulnerable members of the population.

“There is also growing evidence of the seriousness of long-term Covid-19 – the effects of the disease that continue for weeks and months and possibly permanently, including damage to multiple organs,” he continued.

“Thrown into the mix is a new variant of Covid-19, which is proved to be highly transmissible and is now prevalent in many areas, while our hospitals are under pressure like never before.

“We need to be realistic – there is only so much the NHS can do, and we all must help our hard- working NHS staff to continue to care for everyone who needs it urgently to stem the rising tide of infections.”

Despite this, Dr Furber says that people should continue to seek help for non-COVID-19 care.

He added: “Once again in our fight against Covid-19, we have reached a crucial point and it has never been more important to observe the rules.

“Stay at home as much as possible. If you have to go out for essential purposes, then behave like you and everyone you meet has the virus.

“Protect yourself and others by following good hand hygiene, keeping at least two metres apart and wear a face mask in enclosed spaces.

“These are all essential habits to adopt for the foreseeable future and we owe it to each other.”