Ten Covid patients in Norfolk's hospitals means more restrictions should be eased
- Credit: Antony Kelly
A big fall in the number of Covid patients in Norfolk's hospitals means further lockdown easing is just a week away.
In February the Government outlined four tests the country would have to meet before each step of restrictions could be eased.
And our analysis of official data shows the country and the east of England is well on track to meet those targets.
1) Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
Despite a small increase towards the end of April, Covid infection rates have kept falling in the last month and and were down 15pc last week in Norfolk and Suffolk.
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The latest data shows that in the first week of May, 158 cases were recorded in Norfolk and 143 in Suffolk. That gives an infection rate of 17 cases per 100,000 people in Norfolk and 19 in Suffolk. In January the infection rate peaked at 500. The average case rate in England is now 21.
Of the county’s seven council areas, North Norfolk has the lowest rate at just under six cases for every 100,000 people, followed by Broadland with 7.6, Great Yarmouth (14) and Norwich (18.5).
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South Norfolk and Breckland both have a rate of 19 per 100,000. The highest infection rate is West Norfolk, recording 32.
2) Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
The number of people being taken to hospital with Covid has collapsed, while deaths have also plummeted since the vaccine rollout began. As of May 4, there were 10 Covid patients in Norfolk’s hospitals. That compares to 758 patients during the peak in January.
At the start of the rollout it was unclear whether the lockdown or the vaccine was behind the fall in Covid patients. However, numerous studies since then have shown that all vaccines are highly effective at reducing hospital admissions.
The last Covid death, meanwhile, was reported at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn on Thursday May 6. The James Paget University Hospital has not reported a death since April 7 and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital’s most recent Covid death was April 21.
Nationally there are 759 Covid patients in hospitals, down a quarter in the week. Two Covid deaths were reported on Sunday.
3) The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
Norfolk and Suffolk have some of the highest vaccination rates in the UK.
Around 70pc of adults in the two counties have received at least one dose and more than a third have had a second jab.
That means almost 600,000 people in Norfolk have had a jab. Those aged under 44 are now being called up and already 30pc of people aged 16 to 44 have had a first dose. Of all 43 health systems across the nation, only Somerset has a better vaccination rate (37pc) for both doses.
4) Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.
Finally, the measure which we have the least control over - will a new and devastating strain of Covid-19 be imported into the UK from elsewhere? The Indian strain is the latest to be designated a “variant of concern” by Public Health England and surge testing is underway in places where it has been detected. Cases have increased to 520 from 202 in the last week and are mainly centered in London and Bolton.
However, this is not going to stop lockdown easing. So far the country has been able to contain new strains and vaccines appear to be working effective against new strains.
All this means that from Monday May 17, groups of six will be able to meet indoors again and we should be able to hug our loved ones for the first time in a year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "The road map remains on track, our successful vaccination programme continues - more than two-thirds of adults in the UK have now had the first vaccine - and we can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly.
"It's because of the British public's unwavering commitment that we are saving lives, protecting the NHS and controlling the virus."