The start of the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine has been warmly welcomed by health chiefs in Wolverhampton – but they say that, while the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic is now in sight, people must continue to do everything they can to stop the spread of the virus.

Thousands of people across the country began to receive the vaccine for the first time on Tuesday (8 December), with jabs being given to those aged 80 and over and frontline health and social care workers. 

Vaccinations will be rolled out to other groups over the coming months, initially to those deemed to be at greatest risk of Covid-19 because of age or underlying health conditions, and then to the wider population.

To date the vaccines have been delivered from hospital hubs, however some local GPs in Wolverhampton are on standby to start vaccinating patients – with the first jabs due to be administered next week.

Councillor Jasbir Jaspal, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "This is a real turning point in our fight against Covid-19, but we haven't won the battle yet.

"The vaccine will of course change everything – but not immediately. This will be the largest immunisation programme in our country's history and it's naturally going to take some time to get vaccinations out to everyone.

"The NHS will be in touch with people as and when they become eligible for the vaccine and, when you are invited to get yours, I would strongly advise you to have it.

"For now, though, we have to face the fact that Covid-19 is still very much with us – and so it's incredibly important that people continue to do everything it takes to stop the spread of the virus. 

"That means carrying on following the Hands, Face, Space guidance by washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering where required and staying 2m apart from anyone who isn't a member of your household or bubble, and adhering to the Tier 3 restrictions which are currently in place. 

"You must also get a Covid-19 test if you develop symptoms of the virus, and I’d urge you to play a part in our mass testing programme now underway at the Civic Centre if you haven't got any symptoms as this will help us reduce the infection rate in Wolverhampton still further.

"If we do all this, we can keep Covid-19 in check until the vaccine can be made widely available – and we, as a nation, can start thinking about a return to life as normal."

Sally Roberts, Chief Nurse, Black Country and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “We know some people within our communities are much more at risk than others from the serious complications of Covid-19, which is why the new vaccine is being prioritised to protect them first. 

"Over the coming weeks we will stand up more hospital hubs and vaccination services from local GPs to ensure that all our communities have access to the Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients will subsequently stand up when further supplies of the vaccine become available and we will confirm these sites when we are able to do so.

"We will be in touch with those eligible for a vaccine as soon as we have appointments available, there is no need for people to contact their pharmacy or GP.”

Latest data shows there were 233.52 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people in Wolverhampton over the 7 days to 8 December. That means 614 people in the city tested positive for the virus in that 7 day period – though the true number of new cases will likely be considerably higher.

The latest information and guidance around coronavirus is available at GOV.UK and on the council’s own coronavirus pages. Further details of the Tier 3 Very High Alert restrictions currently in place, and the answers to frequently asked questions, are available at Covid Alert

Symptoms of Covid-19 include a fever, a new, continuous cough and loss or change to a person’s sense of taste and smell. To book a test, visit GOV.UK or call 119. People can get tested within 8 days of developing symptoms. 

People without symptoms of Covid-19 are invited to take part in the mass testing programme at the Civic Centre. This aims to identify undiagnosed cases of the virus among people who – because they haven't got any symptoms of Covid-19 – don't realise they have it. As a result, they can self-isolate which will help break the chain of transmission and reduce the spread of the virus to family, friends and work colleagues. 

Mass testing is available between 8am and 7pm weekdays and from 10am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. No appointment is necessary, and all are welcome. The process is rapid and people will have their results inside an hour. Free short stay parking is available at St Peter’s Car Park off Wulfruna Street for people attending the Civic Centre for a test.