What does the Norfolk data tell us about Covid easing on June 21?

A large-scale Covid vaccination centre has opened in Harleston

Half of people aged over 16 in Norfolk have had two Covid-19 jabs. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Experts are divided over whether the government should push ahead with its road map to lift all coronavirus restrictions on June 21.

So what is the current situation nationally and in Norfolk?

Two important points to bear in mind are that the government's decision will be based on national, not local, data, and that it will be based on the latest information available in the run-up to that date.

The government has said that, at each step of easing restrictions, the assessment will be based on four tests:

1. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.

Statistics for Norfolk and Waveney are impressive, with the NHS providing than a million vaccination doses so far.

Weekly data published by NHS England and NHS Improvement last Thursday showed 76pc of people aged 16 or over had received their first jab - compared to 70pc in England.

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That ranked Norfolk and Waveney as third out of 42 health and care systems in England.

And some 50pc of people aged 16 or over in Norfolk and Waveney had received both vaccinations, compared to 43pc in England.

That ranked Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group sixth out of the 42 health and care systems.

More recent figures,  published on Monday, May 31,  not broken down county by county show that across the UK as a whole, almost three-quarters (74.8pc) of the adult population has had their first Covid jab, with almost half (48.5pc) having had their second.

2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, May 25 - the latest available figures, there were five patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 in Norfolk's hospitals.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn had four, the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston had one and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital had none.

A year ago, that figure was at 108 and, during the peak of the second wave, in December and January, there were days when there were more than 800 cases in Norfolk.

Nationally, between May 24 and 30 there were 60 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, an increase of 42.9pc compared with the previous seven days. A further death was reporter on Monday, May 31.

No deaths within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 were reported on Tuesday - the first time that happened since July 30 last year.

The government also said that, as of 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 3,165 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.

3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

Coronavirus case rates for England stood at 27.2 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days up to Wednesday, May 26.

That was an increase of 23pc on the previous seven days.

Norfolk remains below the national average, with 13.8 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days up to May 26.

However, that rate has gone up by 41pc  on the previous week. The rate was 9.8 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days up to Wednesday, May 19.

The low numbers in Norfolk overall mean just a handful of cases can mean large percentage changes.

Breckland saw the biggest increase - up 224pc from 10.7 cases per 100,000 to 33.6 cases.

Broadland's rate increase from 8.4 cases per 100,000 to 15.3 cases per 100,000 was an 84pc rise.

The Golden Mile in Great Yarmouth on a warm and sunny afternoon (photo: James Bass)

Great Yarmouth has one of the country's lowest coronavirus case rates. - Credit: James Bass

But Great Yarmouth was down 57pc, from seven cases per 100,000 to just three - the seventh lowest case rate in England.

The fall from 9.2 cases per 100,000 to 4.3 in South Norfolk was a drop of 53pc, while North Norfolk was up 51pc from 5.7 cases per 100,000 to 8.6.

Cases in Norwich were up 11pc, from 14.2 per 100,000 to 15.7, while King's Lynn and West Norfolk rose by 6pc, up from 11.2 cases per 100,000 to 11.9.

4. Assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.

The emergence of the Indian. or B.1.617.2, strain of the virus is one of the prime reasons why some scientists are calling for a delay in the June 21 further easing of restrictions.

It is thought to be more transmissible than the Kent variant and is causing the majority of infections in 'hot spots' such as Bedford, Bolton, Blackburn, Chelmsford and Canterbury.

In the seven days up to Saturday, May 22, 8,250 of England's 13,170 Covid-19 cases were caused by the Indian variant - a total of 63pc.

That was up on the 3,867 cases over the previous seven days, when the Indian variant was behind 33pc of the total 11,755 cases.

Norfolk has had about 15 cases of the Indian variant  - and no new cases in the past week.

Cases have been identified in Breckland, South Norfolk, King's Lynn and West Norfolk and Broadland.

The Pizer Covid-19 vaccine is 88pc effective against that variant after two doses and the AstraZeneca jab is 60pc effective, a study by Public Health England found.

However, they were only 33pc effective three weeks after the first jab.