One year of Covid: Graphics chart the course of the virus through Norfolk

A nurse prepares to administer the Covid-19 vaccine

The NHS has been stretched like never before in the last year - Credit: Hugh Hastings/Getty Images

In the 12 months since Covid arrived in Norfolk, hundreds have died and the NHS and other services have been stretched as never before. Here are seven graphics charting the course of the virus through the county.

Covid deaths

More than 2,000 people have now died from coronavirus in Norfolk and Waveney. 

The first wave, while not as deadly as in other parts of the country, claimed 461 lives from March to June last year.

The second wave proved far more deadly. More than half of the total number of deaths happened in just two months, with 1,296 deaths recorded in January and February this year.

Care home deaths peaked in January, with 103 residents dying in the week ending January 29 – the highest weekly total in England on that date.

James Bullion, Norfolk County Council director of adult social services, said at the time that new strains were wreaking havoc in the system, with one in five staff off sick because of the virus.

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But data shows care home deaths dropped dramatically after the vaccination rollout targeted the elderly.

The deadliest places

King's Lynn and West Norfolk have seen the most Covid deaths out of any council area in Norfolk, with 399 recorded.

Neighbourhood data also reveals a link between death rates and local age profiles, with more deaths in areas with a higher average rate of people over the age of 65.

The worst hit areas included Swaffham, Blofield, Lingwood & Upton and Downham Market.

Hospital beds

The first wave peaked on May 3 last year, when 249 beds were occupied by virus patients across Norfolk’s hospitals.

As admissions slowed, hospital bosses were already warning that lessons needed to be learned before an inevitable second wave, with staff burnout and PPE supplies major concerns.

But when that second wave came it was worse than many had feared, with the new strain proving more deadly. 

In January, 758 hospital beds were occupied by virus patients on the busiest days.

Critical care beds

The wave after Christmas put huge pressure on the NHS, with the average number of patients on critical care beds far higher throughout the whole of winter.

The crisis peaked on February 2 this year, when there were 90 more critical care beds occupied by patients than the average for that date. 

Hospitals in Norfolk created more space for beds and patients were sent to other hospitals when there was no space left. 

Speaking at the height of the crisis, one NHS worker told this newspaper: "It's just horrendous, it's like a war zone. We're all anxious. People have to know and be more aware and take it more seriously. Staff are in tears."

Although the numbers have since fallen, by the beginning of March the number of critical care beds occupied was still above the average for this time of year.

Infection rates

The highest infection rates in Norfolk have been in Norwich, where an overall rate of 5,125 cases have been recorded per 100,000 people since the start of the pandemic.

The lowest is in North Norfolk, which has seen 2,802 cases per 100,000 people.

Higher case rates have been linked to outbreaks at various workplaces and institutions, such as prisons, meat factories and care homes, which caused rates to soar in some areas.

There was a major outbreak last August at Banham Poultry in Attleborough where cold working environments and difficulties in social distancing created problems.

Similar outbreaks have been seen in Norwich Prison, where almost 300 inmates and more than 100 staff have tested positive.

Higher case rates have also been seen in more deprived communities. Norfolk’s director of public health, Dr Louise Smith, previously linked this to people’s work, with those in lower paid jobs more exposed to the virus.

Vaccinations

The vaccination rollout is continuing at pace in Norfolk and Waveney.

Almost half of all adults have been vaccinated at least once - the sixth best rate in the country.

NHS England data shows 419,439 people in Norfolk and Waveney had received a first dose of the jab by March 7.

Every person aged 75-79 has been vaccinated in Norfolk, according to government figures, while 97pc of people aged over 80 have had their first jab.

The programme has now started vaccinating people aged 50 and over.

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