Analysis: How close is Norfolk to declaring a London-style Covid emergency?

Road sign indicating essential travel only due to the Covid-19 lockdown

Lockdown rules include only leaving home for a small number of essential reasons. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The latest figures show parts of Norfolk have a higher coronvairus infection rate than some areas of the capital, with hospital beds filling up fast and staff stretched to breaking point.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan declared a state of emergency in the capital on Friday, amid warnings that 1 in 30 people are carrying the virus with hospitals about to be overwhelmed.

The pressures that led to the decision were rates of infection and hospital capacity, so we looked at the data for Norfolk to compare.

Rate of infection

The latest Public health England data shows the rate of infection in London is up to 61pc higher than it is in Norfolk.

In all, 19 of the 32 London boroughs have infection rates of over 1,000 per 100,000 people, with the worst affected areas like Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge returning rates of 1,627 and 1,4665 per 100,000 respectively for the week ending January 5.

Norfolk’s overall infection rate was 504.5 per 100,000 by January 5, with the nearest London closest London borough to that figure – Richmond upon Thames - reporting a rate of 594.9 on the same day.

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Broken down by individual local authority, Great Yarmouth returned the highest rate of infections as of January 5 – with 622.1 per 100,000 people. That figure was enough to put the area above three London boroughs on the same day.

All other local authorities in Norfolk returned rates below those seen in London, suggesting the region has yet to face the  same level of surge seen in the capital.

New analysis by data modelling group Edge Health suggests 1 in 10 people in Norfolk have been infected with the virus, with 88,646 cases estimated. So far, 22,119 cases have been recorded in the county.

Nationally, the analysis suggests the figure could be as high as 1 in 5.

Critical care beds

The NHS’s weekly critical care bed reports shows eight London hospitals where 50pc of critical care beds were full by January 5.

Meanwhile at Norfolk's largest hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust reported that 38 out of 99 critical care beds were occupied by January 5, making up around 38pc of the total – a difference of 12pc less than London’s worst affected hospitals.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn had 11 out of 25 critical care beds full, giving it a 44pc occupancy rate.

At the James Paget University Hospital 11 out of the 23 critical care beds were also occupied, meant it had a rate of 48pc.

In West Suffolk, 50pc of 42 critical care beds were full by January 5.

However, without enough staff to treat people bed numbers are irrelevant and there are staff shortages across the NHS.

All other hospital beds

NHS England data for the capital shows some hospitals at breaking point. Both the Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Whittington Health NHS Trust are reporting 100pc capacity, with every general and acute bed taken up by patients.

In all, 10 other hospitals in the capital were reporting 95pc capacity or more by January 5.

At the Whittington in North London, 65pc of those beds are taken up by Covid patients, the highest percentage in London.

Meanwhile in Norfolk, the fullest hospital by January 5 as the QEH, which was at 95pc capacity. Both the NNUH and West Suffolk trusts reported 90pc capacity on the same day, with the James Paget at 93pc.

Latest NHS figures show there were 40 people with Covid-19 occupying beds at Queen Elizabeth Hospita

Latest NHS figures show there were 40 people with Covid-19 occupying beds at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, on November 17. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Sonya Duncan

At the NNUH, just under a quarter of all beds are taken up by Covid patients, while that figure is 22pc at the JPUH and 31pc in West Suffolk.

Judging by the remaining hospital capacity and difference between rates of Covid patients taking up beds, the county appears to be a short way off from the situation that unfolded in London last week.

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