Bristol health boss says it’s ‘time to reconnect’ before next winter Covid surge

‘The bigger risk from Covid is going forwards’

Bristol’s director of public health says now is the time for residents to recoup and reconnect with people before an expected “resurgence” of covid this winter.

Christina Gray stressed the importance of social interaction for mental and physical wellbeing but that a balance had to be struck because the pandemic had not gone away.

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Speaking on BBC Radio Bristol John Darvall’s show, she said we were not out of the woods either globally or locally with coronavirus and new variants were “inevitable”.

Covid accounts for 7% of deaths in Bristol

The city council director said about one in 23 people in Bristol and the surrounding area were thought to have covid and that this was roughly 4.5 per cent, slightly below the national average of five per cent.

“We’re not top of the leaderboard anymore, we’re down in the middle of the pack which is good,” she said.

“The number of people in hospital being treated for covid is well down on what we’ve seen before.”

Ms Gray said that covid accounted for seven per cent of all deaths in the area over the last few months, which was a slight increase but the numbers were relatively low.

She said: “It’s very difficult because we’re balancing the need to get some sort of normality back.

Christina Gray, the region’s director of Public Health, has urged residents to be cautious even as lawful restrictions on Covid lift this week.

“It’s such a delight to see people in person again now and it’s important for our children and older people, all of us, to start to see people again.

“We have issues with some young people who haven’t been socialising. They need to do that, they need to gain social skills and confidence.

“Some people are feeling vulnerable and afraid to go out, so we need to get some sort of balancing.”

‘We would expect to see some resurgence this winter’

“This particular omicron wave which we’ve had since the beginning of the year, is starting to flatten and tail off.

“We would normally expect to see that – we’ve got better weather and nice sunshine, people can be outdoors, it’s easier to open windows.

“We’ve got a very informed and careful population. Everybody is being quite thoughtful and careful about who they’re mixing with.

“The bigger risk from covid is going forwards. We would expect to see some resurgence as we get into the winter months and we would expect to see that with other winter diseases.

“In terms of these spring and summer months it’s time to recoup, reconnect with others, to recover, but to be prepared for the fact that we are in an ever-changing global solution with covid and other things as well.”

‘We are social beings and it makes us stronger’

Loneliness was the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week, and the public health boss said scientific studies had shown how connecting with others was crucial to good health.

She said: “Loneliness is about connectedness. We are social beings. Being connected to others has a very protective impact on our physical and mental health.

“It’s quite extraordinary. Connectedness in the modern world can be many things – it can be talking to your neighbour as you go out the door, it can be online, young people have connections which are based on the internet – but it’s something that is very powerful and we are interconnected beings – biological, social and emotional.

“It could be as simple as if you want to go out, you might want to walk up the street and say hello to people or sit in the park where you’re not alone or make the effort to see friends and family.

“I’m very aware of it and have talked to friends, family and colleagues that we’re all having to make an effort to connect again.

“And when we do, it’s so profound and joyous and new, something we took so for granted.

“We are social beings and it makes us stronger and helps us recover.

“With this good weather and the opportunity to be out and about and take time with colleagues at work, with friends and neighbours, say hello, small acts can make a great difference,” Ms Gray told Mr Darvall on Thursday, May 12.