Health chief 'cautiously optimistic' as Covid figures fall in Northumberland

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Northumberland’s director of public health is ‘cautiously optimistic that cases are now falling’, following a Covid spike in the aftermath of Christmas.

However, Liz Morgan also warned that the knock-on impact of the peak in cases is still be felt in hospital admissions and deaths.

Providing her regular update to Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board on Thursday, January 14, she said: “There’s a sense that after that peak of cases, actually case rates are coming down.”

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County Hall, Morpeth Picture by Jane ColtmanCounty Hall, Morpeth Picture by Jane Coltman
County Hall, Morpeth Picture by Jane Coltman

She told members that cases from December 15, 2020, to January 11, 2021, followed an expected pattern, involving a reduction linked to the second lockdown and then a rise as restrictions were relaxed at Christmas.

This week, the county’s figures show a fall of around a third in just seven days, from 1,158 cases at a rate of 361.6 per 100,000 in the week up to January 6 to 739 at 230.7 up to January 13.

“That’s quite a startling reduction,” Ms Morgan said. “It had taken us about three weeks to increase our rates to the level which we had seen on December 29 (when 273 cases were recorded).

“This is actually a good picture and we are starting to see an improving picture.”

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But the impact of this latest spike in cases has yet to be felt in full, Ms Morgan said, referring to graphs covering data over the past couple of months.

“That peak of cases on or around November 10 ended up in a peak in hospital admissions around the end of November. When you look at deaths, you can see there was a definite increase, again towards the end of November.

“You can see that there’s a suggestion of an increasing number of admissions and deaths, and we can expect that the increasing number of cases in the early part of this month are likely to reflect in an increasing number of admissions and, unfortunately, deaths.

“The trust (Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Northumberland’s hospitals) is experiencing increasing numbers of admissions due to Covid, they have a larger number of patients with Covid and we can expect that to become quite tricky over the next week.”

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Ms Morgan continued to drive home the message that has been delivered consistently during the pandemic that it is following the basic rules which makes the most difference.

“What we need people to do – and vaccination will not change this – is to continue to do what they have been doing incredibly well over the last, well, many months,” she said.

“The most important thing is social distancing, because the more distance we can keep between ourselves and other people and the more we can keep our contact with people to an absolute minimum, that’s going to have the biggest impact on transmission.”

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