Tighter coronavirus restrictions for Norfolk ‘not being discussed’
- Credit: Archant
Further coronavirus restrictions in Norfolk are “not being discussed” - despite infection rates spiralling in parts of the county.
That was the clear message from health chief, Dr Louise Smith, who responded to concerns that Norfolk faced being upgraded to Tier Two of the government’s alert system.
Her assessment comes after Watton’s infection rate rocketed, reaching 1,200 cases per 100,000 people following a major outbreak at the Cranswick Country Foods factory.
It has also increased to a record high in the wider district of Breckland, while Great Yarmouth’s rate has continued to rise.
Asked whether tighter measures were being considered, either across Norfolk or in more specific areas, Dr Smith said: “We are not actively discussing restrictions at this stage.”
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Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council (NCC), added: “All the information we get from public health, businesses and residents - all that data has got to be kept under constant review.
“From all our points of view - not just the county council but all the public bodies - we are keeping this information under review, so that we can get to a situation and think ‘do we have to move further forward?’
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“At this stage we are not in a position where we have to go any further into a Tier Two category.”
It was also revealed on Thursday that the number of people with Covid-19 in Norfolk’s hospitals had risen to a total of 89, up from 49 this time last week.
But Dr Smith, the county’s director of public health, said fewer people were being admitted to intensive care than during the first wave of the virus.
“We do think we are seeing early indications that hospitals are able to treat people more often on general wards, with the learning that’s been gained from treating people in the first period,” she added.
In recent weeks the number of young people in Norfolk contracting coronavirus has risen significantly but, in line with the rest of the UK, Dr Smith said a change in pattern was being detected.
Instead, however, cases among young people are falling and more people between the ages of 23 and 60 are testing positive.
The health boss admitted the increase was “a concern” and represented a potential danger to older people.
“If that pattern is left unchecked, what we have seen in other parts of England is that the rise in cases then passes to people in the over-60 age group,” said Dr Smith. “Rising numbers in the over-60s are more closely associated with increased numbers of people being admitted to hospital.”
She added: “I understand people are getting tired of following the rules, but this is an appeal to ask people to continue to do so.
“Anything you can do to reduce the number of people you are in contact with reduces your risk and also reduces everybody else’s risk.
“Clearly we are taking seriously and considering the possibility that numbers could escalate quickly in Norfolk.”
NCC has also revealed its public health team is actively investigating coronavirus outbreaks in a variety of settings, including in 37 care facilities and 10 schools or colleges.
Eleven outbreaks are being looked into at businesses or workplaces, including Cranswick.
Breckland Council leader Sam Chapman-Allen, at Thursday’s press conference to address fears over Watton’s situation, said work was being done to support the town.
He added: “We have had officers out this week working with businesses to reassure and understand their concerns, but likewise ensure the high street and wider economy of Watton is still thriving.
“We’ve had boots on the ground undertaking physical contact tracing which has had a really positive reception.”
Meanwhile, Mr Proctor also announced a fund to ease the prospect of hardship among families at Christmas time.
The council is providing £200,000 to Norfolk Community Foundation in order to support vulnerable people over the festive period.
“We know this has been a tough year for many people in Norfolk,” he said. “We’ve been working with partners to support the most vulnerable, especially as winter kicks in and the furlough scheme ends.”