Plea to protect Norwich as coronavirus cases in city double in less than a week
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
People were today urged to “work together” to beat the soaring Covid rate in Norwich.
At an emergency press conference called to highlight fears about the city’s infection rate, it was revealed that Covid support officers will take to the streets from tomorrow (Saturday) to get the message across.
Health bosses also said a high proportion of cases in Norwich were in people under 30 - but not all were linked to the University of East Anglia (UEA).
Dr Louise Smith, director of public health, said: “I am concerned that we are now seeing a rising trend in cases across Norfolk.
“Our seven-day rate is 52 per 100,000 across the county and that compares to 37 this time last week.
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“We are particularly concerned about rates in Norwich and we need to work together to bring these rates down. For the period between October 4 and October 10. the seven day incidence of the virus across Norwich was 92 per 100,000 and that compares to 36 the week before, so we are now seeing a doubling rate in less than a week.
“Whilst this figure remains below the national average of 162 per 100,000 across England, the rate for Norwich is now the highest in the county and one of the highest in the region and we are clearly concerned about the rising trend.”
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She said there were now about 20 new cases in Norwich every day, with the majority among younger age adults, particularly in the University, Nelson and Eaton wards of the city.
But she said: “There is concern about transmission in communities across the whole city.”
She said just under half of those who had tested positive were young adults aged between 18 and 30, but said the virus could spread very quickly from that age group to the wider community, including to those who were more vulnerable.
With the university conducting voluntary testing of students and staff, that has led to more positive tests and Dr Smith said 40pc to 50pc of cases were linked to the UEA.
But she said, while there were no major outbreaks, there were other clusters not linked to the university. She said that included young people working in care homes and people in other workplaces. But she stressed there were no “serious outbreaks” in Norwich.
She said decisions over whether cities would go into higher tiers would be based on a number of factors and the government would discuss it with local leaders - and only after other efforts to keep the levels down were exhausted.
She said: “We need people to be extra careful in following the measures which are in place. If we act now, we can not only protect ourselves and our friends, family and others, but protect Norwich as well.”
Stephen Evans, chief executive of Norwich City Council, revealed that a team of 20 Covid support officers would be taking to the streets of Norwich from Saturday,
The council recently received almost £90,000 from the government to set up such a scheme, although City Hall is not calling them coronavirus marshals.
He said: “We don’t think marshals is the right term. They are there to provide reassurance and a visible presence on the streets of the city. “They will start to be rolled out from tomorrow. We’ve got a team of 20 so far and I expect that to grow over the coming days and weeks.
“They are primarily going to be in areas of the city where there’s lots of people congregating, so you’ll see them in the city centre, but we can use the data to deploy them in other parts of the city.
“They will be there to remind people of the guidance. They will have stocks of sanitiser and face masks if people need them and they’re really there to provide that visual reassurance.”
There are now five people with coronavirus on ventilators in the county’s hospitals and a further 28 people being treated.
Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said people “gave up so much to keep the virus in check when we went into lockdown”.
He added: “But now that landscape has changed and Norwich has the highest rate of positive Covid cases in Norfolk per 100,000 people.
“We need to act now to drive the numbers down so I’m urging all our residents, throughout our many different communities and neighbourhoods, to act as one and follow the government guidance so we can protect ourselves, protect others and protect Norwich.”
The essential advice to follow:
• Keep your distances from others
• Follow the rule of six and only gather in groups of less than six, inside or outside
• Cover your face when this is required
• Keep washing your hands.
• It is crucial to stay at home if you have symptoms and only leave to get a test
Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council and chairman of the Norfolk Engagement Board, said: “Across Norfolk our communities have done a great job in keeping rates of coronavirus down and this has been a collective effort from residents, businesses and local authorities.
“Fortunately rates are still below those nationally but they are rising across most of the county. Norwich was the focus today and it was the Great Yarmouth area last week.
“I endorse totally the comments that we must continue to follow the guidelines, they are there for a purpose, and work together to protect each other and protect Norfolk.”
Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at County Hall said: “Norwich has a strong community spirit and there is unlikely to be a time we need to see it in action more than this winter.
“With half term approaching a strong message must go out to those thinking of heading to Norwich and Norfolk. Just don’t. That will show those being asked to continue to endure the measures to stay safe in the city we are serious about containing the virus.’