Norfolk coronavirus cases fall but people urged to stick to lockdown

A man walks past a poster in the window of a Primark shop in Manchester, in the final week of a four

Coronavirus rates in Norfolk are falling, but people are being urged not to let down their guard. - Credit: PA

Coronavirus cases in Norfolk have dipped below 400 cases per 100,000 people for the first time in weeks.

But people are being urged to keep adhering to the lockdown restrictions or they could rise again - and heap further pressure on the NHS.

Norfolk's rate has dropped to 377 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to January 23, down 66 on the previous seven days.

There were 3,419 cases in those seven days, 599 fewer compared to the previous week.

The number of people with Covid-19 in the county's hospitals has fallen. It was 697 as of January 26, down 33 compared to a week ago.

Fifty-one of those are in intensive care, four fewer than this time last week.

But there have been 57 further deaths of patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 in the country's hospitals, taking that total to 1,090.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

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Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk's director of public health, said national lockdown was having an impact on the county's rates and it was "very encouraging" that rates were falling in all parts of the county.

But she said: "We cannot be complacent – the drop is slow and numbers could quickly move the other way if we started to ease off.

"That’s why it’s so important to keep following the rules, as challenging as that is for everyone.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: NCC

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: NCC - Credit: Norfolk County Council

County council leader Andrew Proctor said: “In this sombre week, as Norfolk’s Covid death toll passed 1,000, we have some cause for hope.

“With cases starting to fall and the vaccination programme locally and nationally is really gearing up, so this augers for a brighter 2021.

"But it may take several months yet and we need to keep following rules – hands, face, space and isolate when you have to.

"Stay at home remains the key message, with everyone taking responsibility and following the lockdown regulations to the letter."

There are 165 outbreaks in the council's care homes, with 70 deaths in the past week.

Dr Smith said she did not believe care homes could have done any more to protect people.

She said the reasons why it had been so much more prevalent in care homes than in the first wave were not clear.

But said it should be viewed in context of the national picture of the second peak, more cases were expected in wintertime and the fact the more infectious UK variant now made up the bulk of cases in Norfolk.

She said: "All of the information I get reported back to me suggests care home staff are going above and beyond their duty.

"They are working extremely hard and we have no evidence at all of anything more they could or should be doing.

"I am confident that numbers will start to come back down."

There are 63 outbreaks in businesses, down two on last week, 34 in schools and colleges, which is up one.

There are also 60 in health and emergency settings, which is down three on the previous week.

Another development is that rapid lateral flow tests, which provide a result within half an hour are being rolled out in Norfolk - to pick up symptom free cases.

That follows a trial in King's Lynn before Christmas.

The council says it will help find key workers who are asymptomatic, so they can isolate and not spread the virus because they do not realise they have it.

That testing is now happening in King's Lynn, where some 250 people have been tested, and Great Yarmouth. More such sites are to follow.

The council says organisations and employers who have eligible staff and workers will be contacted and given details on how to get involved.

In addition to 50 firefighters who have been helping the NHS with swab tests and fitting personal protective equipment, 40 other council staff are being provided to the NHS.

That includes 20 staff to provide non-specialist support on hospital wards at Norfolk Community Health and Care, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at County Hall, said: "A bit of a reduction in infection numbers isn't a cue to relax.

"Because we seem to be on the right route doesn't mean we've arrived.

There are still too many risks and too much at stake to give any impression it's okay to drop our guard."