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Coronavirus: 'No plan to seek extra support', say Norfolk health officials

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Norfolk public health officials say they have no current plans to request additional support from the government because of high coronavirus levels – despite neighbouring areas doing so.

Latest data suggests infections are now starting to fall, although admissions to Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital are still rising.

On Friday evening it was confirmed that Suffolk is to become an Enhanced Response Area (ERA).

Coronavirus news
Coronavirus news

This means support will be provided from the government around vaccinations, outbreaks — including significant outbreaks in schools — and communications for a five-week period.

Other measures set to be introduced include fast-tracking decisions to government, enhanced measures in schools, national teams supporting local outbreak teams with surge testing, additional volunteers being recruited and more funding for messaging.

The decision, made by the UK Health Security Agency and the government, comes after Suffolk reported almost 4,000 new infections in a week — a rate of 528.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Additional support is also being sent to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough from today.

But a Norfolk County Council spokesperson confirmed there were no current plans to request a similar intervention north of the county border, based on current case levels and patterns.

The latest county-wide figures, for the seven days to last Tuesday, October 26, showed an infection rate of 452 cases per 100,000 people in Norfolk, compared to 473 in Suffolk.

Data for West Norfolk, covering the week to yesterday, also showed there had been a 10 per cent weekly fall in the number of positive tests to 737.

But 31 Covid patients were admitted to the QEH during the seven days to last Sunday, October 24, a 72 per cent rise on the previous week.

On Thursday, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital announced that it would be suspending visiting on inpatient wards, albeit with several exceptional circumstances outlined.

Similar rules have been in place at the QEH for several weeks.

But, asked whether similar measures to those being introduced in Suffolk were needed in Norfolk, Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, said: “At the moment, it doesn’t look like there’s much evidence that Norfolk is deteriorating that quickly, to be honest.

“We’re not looking particularly bad relative to the country as a whole at the moment, so I hope that situation will continue really.”

Prof Hunter pointed out that Covid cases were nationally “on the wane”.

“A lot of models are suggesting that we might actually already have passed the peak and that we might see cases continuing to fall as we move towards Christmas, even if we do nothing,” he said.

“The big question is whether the [national] fall in cases that we’ve seen in the last week will translate into falls in hospitalisations – probably at some time in the next week, if it is going to happen – and deaths a couple of weeks later.”

He added that he was “hugely optimistic” about the effectiveness of booster doses and that immunity was rising among teenagers.

“We’re getting to the point where it’s not going to be that long before the vast majority of teenagers, even if they’ve not been vaccinated, have had the infection and recovered – and that is equivalent to having been vaccinated.”

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