Concerns are growing that the imminent start of the new school term next week could see a fresh rise in coronavirus infections.
But bosses in Northumberland are confident the county can weather any coming storm, as long as lessons learned so far in the pandemic are remembered.
“One of the things that will influence the case rates is the extent to which people return to pre-Covid behaviours,” said Liz Morgan, director of public health at the Northumberland County Council.
“All modelling suggests that things like restricting numbers of social contacts, wearing face coverings, socialising indoors or, if you can, socialising outdoors [and] maintaining good respiratory hygiene and hand washing will influence case rates.
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“One thing we have in our favour is the vaccination programme, but we do still have quite a large pool of people who are unvaccinated – children, people who haven’t had vaccination for whatever reason, or people who have perhaps not responded quite as well as we would like.”
Speaking to the county council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Morgan also revealed Northumberland had recorded at least 16 Covid-related deaths in August, making it the deadliest month since March.
More than 84% of those eligible in the county have now had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, but concerns are growing about the potential impact “stubborn” holdouts may have.
NHS chiefs however claimed there were also reasons to be hopeful, particularly in light of the possible knock-on effect for flu vaccine take-up.
Richard Hay, head of planning and operations at Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Historically, we’ve had very strong uptake of flu vaccinations in Northumberland.
“We’re always top of the pile within the region, so there’s nothing to suggest we will not be able to do that again and we’re hoping actually to be able to increase our flu numbers off the back of the really successful Covid vaccination programme.
“Ideally, we’d love to be able to do [flu jabs] alongside Covid boosters, but if the guidance that comes from the Government says we can’t do that and we need to give them both separately, we’re just as well prepared to be able to do that.”