Norfolk nearing Covid case peak, but weeks more pressure on NHS

Audrey Burton, 97, receiving her COVID-19 vaccination at the Castle Quarter Vaccination Centre in No

Coronavirus case rates in Norfolk are close to peaking, says the county's director of public health. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Norfolk could be getting close to its peak for Covid-19 cases, the county's director of public health has said.

In the seven days up to Tuesday, January 4, case rates in Norfolk were at 1,619 cases per 100,000 people - a 35pc increase on the previous week.

Rates among over 60s were up by 90pc, from 442 per 100,000 to 802 and, as of Thursday, January 6, there were 202 people in Norfolk's hospitals who had tested positive for Covid-19.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk - Credit: Norfolk County Council

However, Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk's director of public health, said it was "significant" that only one of those were in critical care.

She said it seemed people with the virus were needing less time being treated in hospital than in previous waves.

But she added that hospitals were likely to come under the most pressure over the next couple of weeks.

Covid

A person takes a Covid test - Credit: Chris Bishop

Dr Smith said: "Our instances of Covid-19 in Norfolk are the highest they have ever been, but the big difference between Omicron and previous waves is that we are seeing it mostly in working age people, although the rates in over 60s are going up.

"In Norfolk, we are now catching up with the rest of the region and I think we are getting close to the peak.

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"Cases are still rising, but the latest figures show that rise is not so steep. It's looking like we will see the peak in the next week or so."

Dr Smith said there had been a "steep rise" in hospital admissions with people currently needing treatment those who had become infected in mid to late December.

She said the lag between infection and illness meant numbers in hospital were likely to continue rising for a couple more weeks.

Dr Smith said: "If we see community cases come down in the next week or so, then hospital cases will be down by the end of January."

She added: "The biggest challenge for services is the impact of staff sickness and isolation. Across the health services there's an 8pc absence rate connected to Covid."

But Dr Smith was not convinced by suggestions that cutting the self-isolation period was the solution.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19).

Prime minister Boris Johnson - Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed ministers are considering reducing the self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people who test positive for Covid from seven days to five days.

But Dr Smith said: "My understanding is that, if you test negative on day six or seven, then there's a 5pc chance of still being infectious. But if you release someone from isolation on the fifth day, it is something like 50pc, so I think that might be pushing to the limit.

"That would be a significant number of people who are still contagious, and I think maybe we should not do that at the moment."

Dr Smith said further waves of coronavirus were likely, but that they were unlikely to be as big as the previous ones, particularly with the development of new vaccines for the autumn.

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