Weekly Update 1 March 2021

Lockdown Quiz

The latest quiz from Julie Clarke (number 48) has been loaded to the website as well as the answers to number 47. Go to the quiz page where you’ll also find this week’s music quiz (number 47) and the answers to music quiz number 46. Our quiz page also lists all the quizzes that have been set previously.

Monthly Update from our Chair on Covid-19 vaccination

I’m writing this in late February knowing that spring, the season of hope, is just around the corner. The early snowdrops and crocuses around Sandbach are giving way to daffodils, the sunshine is stronger, and days are getting longer. In a few weeks’ time it will be the spring equinox (meaning ‘equal night’), one of two days each year when the Sun rises due East and sets due West everywhere on Earth. The natural rhythm of the seasons reminds us once more that winter is the price we pay each year for the delights of spring, summer and autumn.

There is good news on the Covid front too. The number of infections continues to decrease and the number of people in hospital with Covid is coming down rapidly. Our NHS has done a superb job of getting vaccinations to the most vulnerable groups. After decisions earlier in the pandemic led to the UK having one of the worst death rates in the world, the vaccination programme, managed by the NHS, is a real success story. Well done NHS, along with the army of volunteers who have stepped forward to help. Vaccination has been incredibly well organised locally, with about 2750 vaccinations given at the Middlewich and Alsager sites from last Friday to Sunday. We are now at the point where the great majority of u3a members will have received their first vaccination, and by the end of May most of us will have had the second dose. In the population as a whole we know that about 20 million people, roughly 30% of the population, have already been vaccinated at least once. Going from becoming aware of this new disease last January to getting the first vaccination in someone’s arm in December really has been a scientific miracle.

Unless you make a point of looking for it, you won’t necessarily come across accurate information about the vaccines, so here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

I’ve already had one jab. Am I safe?

Not yet. Protection against Covid doesn’t start until about 2-3 weeks after the first jab, and the second jab gives you greater protection still. Even then it is still possible for some people to get Covid. The most important point about vaccination is that it gives a high degree of protection against serious illness. Any risk of infection depends on how likely it is that you are exposed to the Covid virus, and even though the number of cases continues to drop the infection rate in much of the UK is still quite high. So it is important to continue with the usual measures of physical distancing, wearing a face covering and hand washing for now. All of these measures will be reviewed by the government in a few months time.

Can I still infect other people after I’ve been vaccinated?

Possibly. The trials of the vaccines were not designed to answer the question of whether people who have been vaccinated may still get an asymptomatic infection and pass the virus on to others. There is some evidence that asymptomatic transmission can still occur in some people. However there is increasing evidence that vaccination significantly reduces transmission of the virus much of the time. So although we don’t know enough to be certain yet, scientists think that the chances of you infecting other people after vaccination are very much reduced.

Is it a problem that I have to wait about 12 weeks before getting the 2nd jab?

The regulator for vaccinations looked at this question very carefully. Its decision is that the maximum protection for the maximum number of people will be provided by delaying the 2nd jab until about 12 weeks after the 1st dose. It is important not to confuse absence of evidence with evidence of absence. In other words, the Pfizer vaccine was only tested with a 3-week gap between doses. That’s all we know. This doesn’t mean that it won’t work with a gap of 4, 6, 9 or 12 weeks – just that gaps of anything other than 3 weeks were not tested. There is lots of evidence from vaccines for other diseases that a gap of more than 3 weeks is not a problem and is often advantageous. Very recent research is beginning to provide evidence that that a gap of more than 3 weeks isn’t a problem for either the Pfizer or the AstraZeneca vaccine.

When will things get back to normal?

Some relaxation of the restrictions, starting on March 8th, has already been announced, along with a road map that takes us well into the summer. So if you are planning a ‘Lockdown Lifted, Vax Relax’ party in the next few weeks, cancel it! It will be quite some time before the infection rate drops to the point where we can stop taking precautions against Covid. As more and more people are vaccinated, the infection rate should continue to drop, any risk of infection will decrease and mixing with friends and family will become safer. But not yet.

I’m writing this in the knowledge that some members may not have left their houses (apart from exercise) or had any real face to face contact with another person for the past year. We mustn’t underestimate the seriousness of Covid. It’s a disease that can kill. But it isn’t realistic to isolate yourself until the risk from Covid drops to zero. That will never happen. As we see with flu, which kills several thousand people every year in the UK, society as a whole accepts that life is not risk-free and that while we can work hard to minimise risks, they can’t always be avoided. Even staying at home on your own increases the risk to mental health for many people. For that reason we have encouraged groups to continue to meet during the past year, when government regulations have allowed it. We expect to provide more detail in forthcoming updates about when groups can restart as we come out of this latest lockdown.

Just to repeat some of the points from my last update:

  • The Covid vaccines available in the UK are safe – and much, much safer than catching Covid is.
  • The vaccines haven’t been developed too quickly.
  • You can’t get Covid from being vaccinated.

You can get updates about the vaccination programme from Cheshire East at https://healthwatchcheshireeast.org.uk/coronavirus/

and https://healthwatchcheshireeast.org.uk/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccinations/

There is also a useful page of Frequently Asked Questions at https://www.cheshireccg.nhs.uk/help-us-help-you/frequently-asked-questions-covid-19-vaccine/

Stay safe, and enjoy the rest of this week’s update.

Stuart Naylor, Chair Sandbach and District u3a

Group News

Getting to know you: the Sandbach & District u3a Committee

This week Linda Bilsborrow tells you about herself and her role:

Linda Bilsborrow, Vice-Chair of the Committee

Like Stuart my working background was in education – first as a primary school teacher and latterly as an ICT Consultant for my Local Authority.
We moved to Sandbach from Manchester in September 2019. The plan was to spend the winter months sorting out our new home so that we’d be free to explore
Sandbach once the weather improved. Unfortunately, the pandemic put a stop to those plans but at least I had somewhere new to explore on my daily walks!  Fortunately, we joined u3a during those winter months and membership of online u3a groups has proved invaluable during lockdowns as has my love of all things quilting.

When an appeal went out for new trustee committee members last year I knew that I would have the time to give and I’m very much aware that you get far more from volunteering than you are asked to give.  Being new to u3a I didn’t anticipate taking on the Vice-Chair role but having had experience as a trustee of a small educational charity was happy to do so. The role is an interesting one. Aside from acting as deputy and critical friend to the Chair there are also opportunities to join working groups, I’m currently in a group looking at the development of our IT usage and attend regional and national meetings.

I’m writing this shortly after the roadmap to easing lockdown was announced and it’s obvious that there will be a lot to consider for both individual members and our committee but I sincerely hope it means that our personal plans to get to know our new environment will finally come to fruition. It will be good to have u3a membership as part of that plan!

Local News

Vaccination Update from Sandbach GPS

This week Friday to Sunday we will be giving around 2750 vaccinations in SMASH across our two sites! Thanks to all the volunteers without whom we couldn’t do this. ps we are still working through group 6. We have also started planning our 2nd dose clinics – more info hopefully soon…

Member Graeme Coyne has provided an easy to read document about the roadmap out of Lockdown which is at the end of this update.

Forthcoming road closures:

Martins Moss Lane, Smallwood, Mill Lane, Smallwood

This will be from 8th March and will continue in force for 18 months or for such less time as is necessary to complete the work to be executed in the highway, although it is anticipated that the works will be completed by Tuesday 06th April 2021. Please be prepared with an alternative route.

Message Sent By Suzanne Holt (Police, Community Support Officer, Crewe)

Holmes Chapel & District  “u3a Air Waves”
Holmes Chapel u3a is continuing its’ partnership with Dane Sound Radio with a new series of programmes under the banner “u3a Air Waves”. This follows on from the success of the six 2-hour programmes that were broadcast last year.

There will be a mix of music programmes and “magazine”-style programmes. The first offering is “u3a Jazz with Peter Shields”, a 2-hour programme of music from Peter’s personal collection, with spoken commentary about each selection. It is hoped that this will lead to the formation of a Jazz Appreciation interest group in the u3a.

The broadcast is at 8:00pm on Tuesday 9th March. To listen in simply go to www.danesound.com and click on “Listen Live”.

The Chair of Holmes Chapel u3a writes – “If any of your members are interested in putting together some programming – any topic considered – please do encourage them to join.  Members provide content, the folk at Dane Sound Radio (one of them also a member) provide the technical know how.’’

On a Lighter Note

  • I used to be a train driver but, I got sidetracked.
  • When you dream in colour, is it a pigment of your imagination?
  • I’m glad I know sign language, it’s pretty handy.
  • I’ve got a phobia of over-engineered buildings…it’s a complex complex complex.
  • If Satan ever lost his hair, there would be hell toupee.
  • My friend made a joke about a TV controller…it wasn’t remotely funny.
  • Broken puppets for sale…no strings attached.
  • Someone stole my mood ring. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
  • I couldn’t work out how to fasten my seatbelt…then it clicked.
  • Getting paid to sleep would be a dream job. 

Summary of Government Roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions