Calls for lockdown as 81% of cases at N&N found to be new variant

Dr Andrew Page, head of informatics at Norwich's Quadram Institute.

Dr Andrew Page, head of informatics at Norwich's Quadram Institute. - Credit: Quadram Institute

A leading scientist has called for a hard lockdown after more than three quarters of coronavirus cases at Norfolk's largest hospital were found to be the new variant.

Experts at Norwich's Quadram Institute discovered that out of 96 samples of positive coronavirus cases at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), tested between December 20 and December 27, 81pc were caused by the new strain.

Dr Andrew Page, head of informatics at the Quadram Institute, said: "It seems to be spreading more rapidly. We need to try different measures.

"We need to lockdown properly. We probably need a Tier 5. We need more time but unfortunately it is spreading so fast."

He added the increasing cases and quicker spread of the virus would cause overcrowding in hospitals.

The new variant, which originated in Kent, was one of the main drivers which forced the government to put East Anglia and much of England under severe Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day.

Aproperty transaction took place for £12.7m on the Quadram Institute. Pic: Archant

The Quadram Institute. Pic: Archant - Credit: Archant

Dr Page sad the new variant is no more dangerous than previous lineages of the virus but that it would cause a surge in positive coronavirus cases after Christmas Day, "because so many people moved around".

In a rallying call to Norfolk, he said: "Follow the rules. Wear a mask when you are out and wash you hands and try not to mix with other households.

"The vaccines are going to be rolled out very rapidly. We are going to be in a much better position so we can get older people and the vulnerable sorted. The death rates are going to plummet."

He also believed that all school children should be taught online for a few weeks.

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The Quadram Institute analyses positive Covid tests from hospitals around Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

Over the same December 20-27 period, 32pc of 45 samples tested from King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital were caused by the new variant and out of 48 from Gorleston's James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), 19pc were down to the variant.

Dr Page said one thought behind its prominence in NNUH samples was from the coronavirus outbreak in Wymondham in November.

He added that the JPUH was still seeing the knock-on effect from the Banham Poultry outbreak, not caused by the new variant, in August.

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