Lockdown yet to bring fall in cases and could’ve made things worse, says expert

Norwich Market during the second lockdown in November.
Credit: Sonya Duncan

Norwich Market during the second lockdown in November. Credit: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

At the midway point of the second lockdown the number of people dying with coronavirus in Norfolk hospitals is rising and the infection rate is still surging.

Public Health England data shows 1,349 new cases were recorded last week in the county – a rise of 45pc.

In the week before lockdown was introduced, the infection rate was around 100 positive cases for every 100,000 people in Norfolk.

It is now 144, meaning that new people were becoming infected around the time lockdown began.

In Suffolk, new cases also rocketed last week by a third, with 702 fresh infections.

There is usually a two-week delay in new infections feeding through into the figures, so it is too early to tell if this second lockdown will work.

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But Professor Paul Hunter, a virologist at the University of East Anglia, said the recent surge in cases could be down to the introduction of lockdown.

“I have spent much of the past few days trying to understand what has been going on and I think the tier system seemed to be working, because case rate increases had pretty much slowed down,” he said.

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“We had the introduction of lockdown and about a week and a half later, we are seeing a surge in new hospitalisations.

“The view is that the surge was because people had a last hurrah before lockdown and I think that is probably a reasonable conclusion to draw.

“Most of the impact of the lockdown is now going to be reversing the increase in infection rates that lockdown brought.”

However, he said when lockdown was introduced it was the right decision.

“Had I been an advisor to the government on October 31, I don’t think I’d have been recommending that we didn’t have a national lockdown,” he added.

Four deaths were reported at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) on Tuesday November 17. The trust says all four – three women and a man – had underlying health conditions.

The last time Covid deaths were as high in the county was on May 8, when eight people died.

The number of beds occupied by coronavirus patients across Norfolk’s three emergency hospitals is also increasing, with the most recent data showing more than 100 beds occupied in on November 10, numbers not seen since May 22.

Sam Higginson, NNUH chief executive, said: “We have robust and well-rehearsed plans in place for the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. I would like to thank all of our staff who continue to go above and beyond to treat all patients and are working hard to maintain all services across the Trust.

I’d like to thank the public for their ongoing support and would urge everyone to continue to do everything they can to slow the spread of Covid-19 by maintaining social distancing, regular hand washing and wearing face coverings when needed.”

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