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Coronavirus: Lockdown 'may be starting to slow spread', says Norfolk health boss



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A slowdown in the spread of coronavirus across West Norfolk may be one of the first signs that the current lockdown is suppressing the disease, officials said today.

But hospitals and other health services are likely to remain under pressure for several more weeks as the numbers being treated for the infection continue to rise.

And a new campaign has been launched urging residents to stay at home, stay local and reduce their social contacts as far as possible in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Coronavirus news
Coronavirus news

Case numbers in West Norfolk and other neighbouring districts are still increasing.

But latest data for the borough, for the seven days up to last Friday, showed a week-on-week increase of just over three per cent.

The equivalent figure has peaked at more than 50 per cent in recent weeks.

Dr Louise Smith, director of Norfolk Public Health. (35978505)
Dr Louise Smith, director of Norfolk Public Health. (35978505)

Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk County Council’s director of public health, said: “It may be the first sign that the lockdown is having an impact.

“Having said that, the numbers going into hospital will continue to rise for some time.”

Speaking at a media briefing this afternoon, Dr Smith also confirmed that work is continuing on plans to set up a lateral flow testing centre in Lynn for people who are not showing symptoms of the virus.

She said staff have already begun training and the facility, which will be one of seven such sites across the county, is set to begin operating in the next few weeks.

She also thanked West Norfolk Council for their support of the project.

Overall, there are currently 770 people being treated for coronavirus in Norfolk’s hospitals.

And there has been a dramatic rise in the number of deaths recorded at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital after a delay in reporting dozens of cases was revealed yesterday.

Melanie Craig, Executive Lead for the Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership, said: “Like areas across the country, the virus is now having a major impact upon local services the NHS delivers and its ability to provide all the operations, diagnostic tests and outpatient appointments, as well as primary care provided treatments and on-going patient support.

“The situation is very challenging. This wave and the new variant are affecting Norfolk and Waveney much more than the first wave.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 over the last few weeks and this number has continued to rise.

“We have local plans and procedures in place, including additional surge capacity, for responding to the increasing demands on the NHS.

“The best thing we can all do to protect ourselves; our families and our communities is to remember - Hands, Face, Space.”

Around three-quarters of current cases are thought to be of the newer, more transmisable variant.

And the county council has launched a new Chances campaign, which aims to persuade the public to only leave home for essential reasons and stay local wherever possible.

Several people have been fined by Norfolk Police in recent days for making visits from outside the county.

County council leader Andrew Proctor said: “Vaccination will eventually get us moving towards a more normal life. But we must not drop our guard now – especially with the new, more spreadable Covid variant in circulation.

“Each time we leave home, we give Covid more chances to spread. It’s essential that, having come this far, we all take personal responsibility to keep following the golden rules – hands, face, space and social distancing.

“If we continue to play our part in this way, we can drive down cases, protect the NHS and buy time for more people to be vaccinated.”

Dr Smith also backed the rollout of the vaccinations in Norfolk, following the publication of data which suggested that the East of England has seen fewer people given the vaccine so far than any other region.

Earlier this week, health chiefs said more than 40 per cent of over-80s in Norfolk and Waveney had received their first dose of a vaccine.

But some care home operators have alleged a “postcode lottery” was deciding which areas received the vaccine first.

And, following questions at a county council cabinet meeting this week, Clenchwarton and Lynn south councillor Alexandra Kemp said a plan was needed to ensure all of the most vulnerable groups were protected before the Government’s stated target of mid-February.

However, Dr Smith insisted the roll-out in Norfolk was progressing well. She added: “We’re working very closely with our colleagues in the NHS who are working really hard to roll out the vaccines.

“Uptake has been really good. If you are invited to have a vaccination, please accept it and have the vaccince because it’s the best way of protecting you from Covid.”



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