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Coronavirus: Norfolk health officials call for New Year caution as cases continue to rise

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Coronavirus rates are at "unprecedented levels" in Norfolk as health officials call for the public to play their part to help curb the disease over the New Year bank holiday weekend.

Norfolk Resilience Forum (NRF) is urging residents to continue playing their part in following the tier four rules in order to ease the pressure on local health services.

The NRF, which is the multi-agency group comprising Norfolk’s local authorities, police, health and supporting agencies, is encouraging everyone to see in the New Year safely at home with their own household or support bubble.

Coronavirus case rates are at 'unprecedented levels', says director of public health for Norfolk Dr Louise Smith
Coronavirus case rates are at 'unprecedented levels', says director of public health for Norfolk Dr Louise Smith

People are urged not to travel outside the local area wherever possible. The new strain of the virus has already had a significant impact on case levels in Norfolk as 2020 comes to a close.

The latest figures show 489 people tested positive within the borough in the seven days up to December 30. This is an increase of 95 or 24.1 per cent from the previous week.

Figures also show there have been six deaths in West Norfolk over the past seven days and 107 new daily cases were reported on Wednesday, December 30.

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor has asked people not to travel over the New Year Bank Holiday weekend
Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor has asked people not to travel over the New Year Bank Holiday weekend

A total of 430 people are being treated for Covid-19 in hospitals across Norfolk and Waveney compared to 362 at the same point the previous week.

The seven-day incidence of the virus in Norfolk for the week up to Christmas Day was 251 per 100,000 up from 200 the previous week.

Norfolk’s director of public health, Dr Louise Smith said: “With the new vaccines there is hope on the horizon. But infection rates are at unprecedented levels in Norfolk, as they are across the country.

Dr Louise Smith, director of Norfolk Public Health
Dr Louise Smith, director of Norfolk Public Health

“There is growing demand in our three acute hospitals and across the county’s social care settings.

“The increasing number of cases is across all ages and we know around one in three people who have Covid-19 don’t have any symptoms, but can still pass it on. So, the steps we take now are critical.

“We must continue to play our part and do everything we can to keep ourselves and our friends and family as safe and well as possible to reduce the spread of the virus and support our local NHS services.”

If you have any of the coronavirus symptoms you must self-isolate straightway and get a test. You must continue to isolate if you test positive or are told to isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

The key advice remains ‘hands, face, space’ – washing your hands regularly, covering your face in enclosed spaces and social distancing from anyone you do not live with or who isn’t in your support bubble is vital.

Councillor Andrew Proctor, chairman of the Norfolk Covid-19 Engagement Board and leader of Norfolk County Council said: “I speak for myself and all the other Norfolk leaders on the Engagement Board in saying there is no doubt that 2020 has been a really difficult year but we can look to 2021 with hope.

“With the announcement of a second vaccine being approved and vaccination programmes already underway in Norfolk, there is much to be optimistic about. But we must not be complacent, we are not out of the woods yet.

“I hope the people of Norfolk will be able to look back over the last year with pride at how they have coped and come together to help others. So many individuals, organisations and businesses have made sacrifices and faced many challenges over a prolonged period of time. Let’s not waste what we have done together.

“We have all had to find ways of celebrating differently to make sure we stay safe and play our part in protecting ourselves, protecting others and protecting Norfolk.

“I would urge everyone simply not to travel. It’s more important than ever to keep up the good work and see in the New Year with celebrations at home with your own household or support bubble. Looking forward to 2021 is not a time we can afford to party or go to other gatherings.”

Norfolk Constabulary’s temporary assistant chief constable Julie Wvendth added: “Given the rise in infections and continued stress this puts on the NHS system, we would urge people to abide by the tier four restrictions.

"If we work together to protect ourselves and each other we can put ourselves in the best place to tackle it. This includes staying local and only going out for essential journeys.

“Where breaches are reported to the police, we will consider the information provided to us and attend where necessary.

"As we have said before, we will continue to follow the 'four Es' approach and will engage, educate and explain the regulations to people, however, blatant disregard for the regulations will not be tolerated and when required we will enforce the legislation.

“It is vitally important that over the upcoming Bank Holiday weekend, people avoid travelling, except locally and where essential, and do not attend gatherings, including UMEs and raves.

"These events are not only illegal but carry a significant risk of transmitting the virus. We would urge people to think twice before attending such events and will, where appropriate, take action to disrupt and shut them down.”

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