No need for government help with Covid in Norfolk, officials say

A new Covid variant has been discovered in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong

Suffolk has requested additional support from the government on measures like surge testing - Credit: PA

Norfolk’s public health officials have confirmed there are no current plans to request additional support from the government to tackle mounting Covid cases - despite Suffolk doing so.   

On Friday evening it was confirmed that Suffolk is to become an Enhanced Response Area (ERA). 

This means support will be provided from the government around vaccinations, outbreaks — including significant outbreaks in schools — and communications for a five-week period.

Other measures set to be introduced include fast-tracking decisions to government, enhanced measures in schools, national teams supporting local outbreak teams with surge testing, additional volunteers being recruited and more funding for messaging.

The decision, made by the UK Health Security Agency and the government, comes after Suffolk reported almost 4,000 new infections in a week — a rate of 528.3 cases per 100,000 people. 

Councillor Matthew Hicks, chair Suffolk’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board and leader of Suffolk County Council said: “I very much welcome this additional help and funding from the government.

Matthew Hicks, chair of the mid-Suffolk development control committee

Suffolk County Council's Conservative leader Matthew Hicks. - Credit: GREGG BROWN

"It will support our already considerable efforts to get more people vaccinated and to slow the spread of Covid-19 in Suffolk.

Most Read

“Throughout the pandemic, Suffolk has been effective at keeping our Covid rates low compared to other parts of the country. This is because we have worked hard and been proactive at every stage.

“The situation facing Suffolk now calls for the same forward-thinking and preventative work to protect residents, businesses and our way of life.

“As we learn to live with Covid-19, it will be actions such as this that prevent Covid from having an even worse impact and, ultimately, holding back our recovery.”

The council had announced its intention to request the additional support on Wednesday.

Stuart Keeble, Suffolk’s director of public health, had said: “We have a new challenge now – high infection rates and hospitalisations at exactly the same time that the NHS is trying to catch up on delayed treatments for millions of people.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

“That is why, after assessing all the data and options available to us, we are making this bid for extra help from central government. We want to get ahead and stop Covid before our NHS reaches the point of no return.”

The development comes as new estimates show the same proportion of people in England have Covid-19 as at the peak of the second wave.

In Suffolk and north Essex, the number of Covid patients being treated at hospitals has risen by about a third in a week.

While the case rate in Suffolk in the seven days leading up to October 24 was 508.5 per 100,000 and falling, the equivalent case rate in Norfolk was 496.3 and rising. 

On Thursday, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital announced that it would be suspending visiting on inpatient wards, albeit with several exceptional circumstances outlined.

A Norfolk county council spokesperson confirmed however that there were no current plans to request a similar intervention north of the county border, based on current case levels and patterns.  

Asked whether similar measures to those being introduced in Suffolk were needed in Norfolk, Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, said: “At the moment, it doesn’t look like there’s much evidence that Norfolk is deteriorating that quickly, to be honest.”

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

“We’re not looking particularly bad relative to the country as a whole at the moment, so I hope that situation will continue really.” 

Prof Hunter pointed out that Covid cases were nationally “on the wane”.

“A lot of models are suggesting that we might actually already have passed the peak and that we might see cases continuing to fall as we move towards Christmas, even if we do nothing,” he said.

“The big question is whether the [national] fall in cases that we’ve seen in the last week will translate into falls in hospitalisations - probably at some time in the next week, if it is going to happen - and deaths a couple of weeks later.”

He added that he was “hugely optimistic” about the effectiveness of booster doses and that immunity was rising among teenagers.

“We’re getting to the point where it's not going to be that long before the vast majority of teenagers, even if they’ve not been vaccinated, have had the infection and recovered - and that is equivalent to having been vaccinated.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter