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How Norfolk’s death figures compare in the war on coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 06:30 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:03 19 May 2020

NHS staff at the drive-through coronavirus testing facility at the Norwich Research Park. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

NHS staff at the drive-through coronavirus testing facility at the Norwich Research Park. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

There are hundreds of numbers and dozens of ways to work out how we are faring in the fight against coronavirus - but by every measure the figures are going in the right direction.

Norwich city centre during lockdown. Rainbow balloons on display in the Sir Garnet pub Picture: BRITTANY WOODMANNorwich city centre during lockdown. Rainbow balloons on display in the Sir Garnet pub Picture: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Sunday was the second day in a week, since lockdown began almost two months ago, that Norfolk’s three hospitals did not report a single new coronavirus death.

In the East of England the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals peaked on April 12 at 1,484.

Since then it has slowly fallen and stood at 777 on May 16.

There are now around 45 coronavirus patients at the region’s largest hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich.

On Monday the hospital reported one more death, while the Queen Elizabeth in King’s Lynn also recorded a death, bringing the total to 343.

• Norwich lowest for deaths

Numbers analysed by this newspaper show that Norwich has the lowest death rate of any council area in the country.

Infection and death rates are falling at hospitals in Norfolk. Photo: ArchantInfection and death rates are falling at hospitals in Norfolk. Photo: Archant

The city recorded 10 deaths from coronavirus up to May 1, according to Office for National Statistics data, meaning its death rate was seven for every 100,000 people.

King’s Lynn and West Norfolk had the highest death rate in the region at 56 for every 100,000, the same as the national average - and eight times the rate for Norwich.

Why two places 43 miles apart have such wildly differing death rates is another coronavirus puzzle which experts will have to solve to defeat it.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk, said theories included the fact it has an older population than Norwich, has higher rates of deprivation and was likely to have had more cases by the time lockdown came in on March 23.

She said when age was taken into account, Norfolk death rates were still well below the national average of 56 per 100,000 people.

The death rate for South Norfolk was 20. Broadland was 23.7, North Norfolk 28, Great Yarmouth 30 and Breckland 35.

• Infection rates

Norwich has the lowest death rate from coronavirus of any council area in England and Wales. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANNorwich has the lowest death rate from coronavirus of any council area in England and Wales. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

The infection rate in Norfolk and Suffolk is also below the national average, but again, West Norfolk and King’s Lynn has a much higher figure.

Its rate per 100,000 people is 432, compared to 150 in Norwich.

In England it is about 250. In Norfolk as a whole it is 220 and in Suffolk 175.

There have been around 2,000 cases recorded in Norfolk in total.

The other key number is the rate at which new people are being infected.

Modelling by Public Health England and the University of Cambridge suggested last week that the infection rate in east England is 0.7, the same as the national average.

It means for every person carrying coronavirus, they infect 0.7 people on average. If the number is below 1, the number of cases will fall.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County CouncilDr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council

• Care homes

There have been outbreaks in care homes in every council area of Norfolk, and despite early warnings from Norfolk’s head of adult social care, James Bullion, about a crisis in care homes, infections have spread rapidly.

Dr Smith said: “We were really worried about a month ago that the numbers were going to shoot up in care homes.”

She said some modelling showed that nationally 90pc of homes will have reported outbreaks by the end of May. In Norfolk it is under a third at the moment.

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There are 94 homes in the county which have reported suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases at some point, according to Public Health England data.

Dr Smith said they believed around 57 of those 94 still had active cases.

“The majority of them are handling it really well,” she said.

• What next?

Norfolk’s NHS is expected to release details later this week on how it will restart more non-coronavirus treatment.

Their first challenge will be to tackle long waiting lists for things like hip and knee replacements, while also stopping new infections in hospitals.

Health leaders nationally warned last week that waiting lists were going to rise as hospitals cut capacity.

There were just under 75,000 patients waiting to start treatment at Norfolk’s three emergency hospitals in March.

Meanwhile, the government said on Monday that a mobile phone app to track and trace people with coronavirus symptoms would happen “within weeks”.

Health secretary Matt Hancock initially said it would be launched in mid-May. At the moment it is being tested on the Isle of Wight.

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