Norfolk 'three weeks from 3rd Covid wave', expert warns
- Credit: PA
Norfolk’s recent increase in coronavirus cases is now “sustained” - and the county is three weeks away from seeing the high levels elsewhere in the country.
That is the view of the county's director of public health, Dr Louise Smith.
Earlier this week she warned that there were “early signs” of a third wave of Covid in Norfolk, despite the county being at a significantly lower rate of infection.
Now, Dr Smith said that health bosses in the county were “particularly certain that the rise is sustained”.
She said: “Previously the numbers have been going up and down, but now clearly they are going up.”
The latest figures show that the county’s rate of infection was 24.9 cases per 100,000 people, compared with a national average of 138.4 - applying to the week ending June 24.
But for this period, the average daily new cases saw an 89pc increase.
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Dr Smith said increases were largely linked to outbreaks in schools, which she attributed to causing small surges in areas like Eaton and Earlham in Norwich.
And she said there was a disparity in case numbers between young adults and the other age groups. This point was illustrated by a case rate of 180 cases per 100,000 people in the 19-22 age group.
She said: “I think there is a combination of factors causing this. I think perhaps young people are more likely to be meeting up in groups or attending education.
“What we are definitely seeing is the number of cases in the young adults age group are really taking off.”
Dr Smith’s advice for people in this age group was to take up vaccine offers as soon as possible, with appointments now open for every person over the age of 18.
But while cases were becoming more prevalent among younger people, she did not think there was a need for face coverings to become mandatory in secondary schools again.
With the end of the academic year looming, Dr Smith said the best approach for schools to take would be to hold end of year functions outdoors, where possible, and continue with regular testing.
And this is advice she would echo for people across the county, urging people to test themselves for the virus twice a week – regardless of whether or not they were suffering from symptoms.
She said: “Of the new cases we are finding, we estimate one in three started with a positive rapid test, which is a large number.
“People should do their best to start doing them by routine and then isolating if they need to. Testing regularly and finding cases earlier is key to protecting our friends and family.”
Meanwhile, with the nation gripped by England’s progress in the European Championships, Dr Smith urged people to be mindful of how they enjoyed the remainder of the tournament.
She said: “Anything that mixes households and brings people into close proximity with one another is going to increase the risk of infection.
“I can understand that people are fed up and want to have some fun, but I would say if you can find a way of watching the football and celebrating in a Covid-safe way, that would be the best way.”
And Dr Smith added that people in Norfolk deserved credit for their pandemic approach, putting the disparity between the county and national figures down to this.
She said: “I think we have had a really good response here. We are one of the best counties in the country for testing, everyone seems to be on top of testing and tracing and our vaccine rollout is also among the best in the country.
“We have worked very hard to support people through self isolation and all this helps.
“I think there's also something in the nature of where we are though and waves do tend to move across the country, so we need to make sure we are absolutely on top of testing.”