Surge in coronavirus cases in Great Yarmouth prompts plea to public
- Credit: Archant
A rise in positive coronavirus cases in Great Yarmouth has sparked a plea for people to take extra care to stop the spread of the disease - and head off potential restrictions or lockdowns.
Two people are in the James Paget University Hospital after the rate in the borough went up to about 49 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. There were about 25 cases per 100,000 people in the previous week.
It means there have been about 30 new cases over the past week and all of them are in what health bosses called ‘working age people’ - people aged 20 to 50.
While about a third of the cases are linked to the recent outbreaks at Banham Poultry and Bernard Matthews, health bosses and council leaders are concerned that, with two-thirds not connected, the disease is transmitting within the community.
So, the message they have put out today is for people to take extra care - to socially distance, to wear masks and to keep washing their hands.
Dr Louise Smith, director of public health at Norfolk County Council, said: “In the week to the 27 of September, 49 people in 100,000 in Great Yarmouth tested positive for coronavirus and that level is up from 25 per 100,000 the week before.
“To put that into context, the Norfolk wide rate currently is 13, so the levels in Great Yarmouth are high compared to Norfolk, but this rate is still low compared to the national rate of 58 per 100,000 and we’d like to keep it like that.
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“At the moment, we are seeing the number of cases grow each day, but we cannot link these cases back to particular outbreaks or clusters.
“That means there may be transmission happening in the wider community and so we need everybody to be extra careful in following the measures which are already in place.
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“The best things people can do is be alert and follow the rules. Keep washing your hands or using alcohol gel, keep your distance from others by following the rule of six.
“We are also urging people to use facemasks and to stay at home if they have symptoms which could be coronavirus. If you do have symptoms, please book a test but, otherwise, stay at home. All these control measures will help us control the virus.”
While there are cases in 27 schools in Norfolk, Dr Smith said the Great Yarmouth cases were not among children, but among the working age population - people between 20 and 50.
She said: “This is not about spread in schools, this is about adults in the general community.”
Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said: “We have a really strong sense of community in Great Yarmouth and now is the time for us all to pull together to prevent the spread of this virus.
“The people of Great Yarmouth have been doing great so far, but we need to keep it up and we all need to consistently follow the guidelines so the rise in cases in the borough are controlled.”
Extra mobile testing units will be set up in the town, while Norfolk County Council’s own contact tracing team is being used to pick up cases where the national test and trace system has not been able to make contact.
Asked about what would trigger further restrictions or lockdowns, Dr Smith said it was difficult to say, as the government was about to change how it classifies different areas.
But she said a rate of 100 cases per 100,000 people might be likely to lead to extra restrictions, which is why people in Yarmouth need to take extra care to stop that figure being reached.
Dr Smith said: “What we understand is that national government are reviewing the categorisation of the local alert levels.
“We have seen some information come out about that yesterday, but we are awaiting confirmed guidance. We understand that there will be three alert levels.
“One is a general alert level for the whole country, which is what Norfolk is at, at the moment.
“We understand that there will be two additional alert levels. We are seeing suggestions that the threshold for the middle level would be 100 cases per 100,000.
“So, I would say we are not there yet and we have a number of weeks, on current trends, before Yarmouth would hit that threshold.
“We do believe if we take the caution and the measures now, we can slow down that rate of increase in Yarmouth and not reach that threshold.”
She said places in the north of England and the Midlands, which are subject to extra restrictions and lockdowns had figures of more like 300 cases per 100,000.
Norfolk County Council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council are working together to promote public health messages in the community.
That includes the distribution of posters and information to businesses and venues in the area, as well as dropping leaflets through doors.
Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, said: “Over many months, the people of Great Yarmouth rose to the challenge of Covid-19, and through everyone coming together and by making changes to their lifestyles, helped to reduce Covid levels massively. Sadly, Covid has not been defeated, and the threat to public health remains very real.
“Covid-19 has not gone away and is continuing to grow across the country, and that is also true in Great Yarmouth and Norfolk.
“That’s why we can’t afford complacency, it is essential that everyone in Great Yarmouth continues to follow the rules, so that we all can stay safe and we can keep this virus under control.”
Colleen Walker, Labour county councillor for Magdalen ward in Yarmouth, said: “I am shocked to find out that the level of reported cases are rising in Great Yarmouth, given how seriously the residents have adhered to strict guidelines and social distancing.
“It just goes to show this horrific pandemic just isn’t going away any time soon.” She said she and other Labour county councillors would do what they could to help and said: “A message to all the residents of Norfolk - please stay safe and follow the guidelines, as together we will overcome this.”