Analysis: Why figures show Norwich’s coronavirus alert level doesn’t need escalating
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Despite the county’s health chief saying case numbers are “stabilising”, the coronavirus infection rate in Norwich continues to rise.
Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s director of public health, revealed the encouraging development on Thursday, but emphasised a continued “regular, steady rise”.
The number of cases in Norwich for the week up to October 19 was 114.5 per 100,000 people, up from 89.6 for the seven days up to October 11.
So, does the rise in infections in Norfolk’s county town demonstrate the need for further restrictions and, potentially, an upgrade of its alert level?
Case numbers in Norfolk as a whole remain relatively low, at 63.8 per 100,000 compared to 180.1 across England, but the situation in Norwich, as well as Great Yarmouth, is an increasing concern for health officials.
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On Thursday, it was announced by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that Slough, Coventry and Stoke-on-Trent would jump from ‘medium’ to ‘high’ risk from Saturday.
Providing reasons for the changes, health secretary Matt Hancock highlighted that rates in all three areas had moved above the 100 per 100,000 mark, while cases were “doubling every fortnight”.
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Norwich, evidently, fits into that ‘above 100’ category, but comparing the city to Slough and examining their recent fortunes reveals a significant contrast.
For the week up to October 12, Slough’s infection rate of 97.6 was not substantially higher than that of Norwich (89.6).
In the week that followed, however, the Berkshire town saw a much sharper rise than its East Anglian counterpart, to 164.5 cases per 100,000 people.
Stoke saw a similarly dramatic increase, from 122.5 to 221.6, while Coventry went up to 190.6 from 172 the week before.
As a percentage, though, it is Great Yarmouth which trumps all, recording a 115pc rise as its infection rate skyrocketed from 54.4 to 116.8 during the same period.
Another similar increase would likely see the borough face stricter measures. The same would happen in Norwich - but fortunately those steady increases appear to be keeping tightening restrictions at bay - for now.
In terms of the “doubling rate” of Norfolk’s positive cases, the figure was, at one point in October, below seven days - far worse than Slough, Coventry and Stoke’s current trajectory.
Nonetheless, Dr Smith was “relieved” to reveal on Thursday that it had improved to “more than 10 days”.
Pressed on the possibility of Norwich moving into tier two, the health chief said: “We are in regular conversations with the DHSC and continue to monitor rates across each area closely.
“At the moment, we do not believe Norwich meets the criteria for escalation, nor do we anticipate any national recommendation for it to be moved into tier two”
Speaking during Thursday’s county-wide update, county council leader Andrew Proctor said the authority was “certainly not advocating” a change of tier.