Norfolk ready for increase in coronavirus cases, says public health director

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella Wilkinson - Credit: Archant

Services in Norfolk are coping with the increase in coronavirus cases and planning is going on ready to deal with the expected further rise, according to the director of public health.

There have been 11 deaths of patients with coronavirus in Norfolk’s hospitals, among 1,284 deaths in England.

Nationally, there have been 22,141 confirmed cases of the disease, with 130 confirmed in Norfolk.

Dr Louise Smith said it was “crystal ball” time, but numbers suggested the county did have the capacity and planning in place to respond to the expected peak, which could come in late April.

Speaking on BBC Radio Norfolk, she said London was a couple of weeks ahead of the rest of the country.

She said testing of frontline NHS staff was not yet happening in Norfolk and there was a need for more testing in general.

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She said: “There’s no dispute, everybody agrees that we would like to have more tests done. We are currently doing somewhere up to 400 tests a day in our system and we’d like to see that become several thousands.”

Dr Smith said institutions such as the University of East Anglia had offered lab space, but it was a matter of getting the raw materials to allow more tests to be done.

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She said it was completely new virus, so a specific test for that needed to be rolled out and the surge in demand was “unprecedented”.

On protective equipment for staff, she said supplies were coming in, although she conceded it was “slow”.

And she said it was also important that other illnesses were not missed during the pandemic. She said people should still contact their GPs with other health problems.

She said: “If you are unwell with something else, that’s what GPs and primary care are for. GPs are available to help with your health and one of the worries is we’ll miss other health conditions.”

On the issue of mental health, she urged people to try to have a routine at home and to try to stay connected with friends and the local community by phone and other technologies.

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