Slowing rate of infection sees Norfolk downgraded on government’s Covid watchlist

Andrew Proctor, Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Andrew Proctor, Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

Norfolk has had its place on the government’s coronavirus watchlist downgraded following a decrease in the rate of infection in the county.

Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella Wilkinson - Credit: Archant

Following the outbreak at Banham Poultry, which saw more than 100 members of staff test positive for the virus, Norfolk was classified as an area of enhanced support in response.

This meant that the county would be given priority for extra testing capacity, faster responses to tests and additional support from public health experts.

However, after the county’s infection rate slowed to beneath the national average, the government today announced that Norfolk’s status had been de-escalated to an area “of concern”.

This means that while close attention will still be paid to trends of infection and would remain on the watchlist, the level of national support available will be reduced.

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Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “This is welcome news for Norfolk because it means that the government has recognised that we have managed to contain the outbreak at Banham Poultry and that there has been a reduction in the rates of the virus.

“However, we absolutely cannot afford to be complacent, it is only because of the support of the public that we are in the position. We remain an area of concern and we continue to closely monitor cases so that we can respond to any local outbreaks or trends.”

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Dr Louise Smith, the county’s director of public health, said: “The figures are markedly lower than they were a week ago and bring us down below the alert or red levels.

“We are seeing a much, much lower number of cases now in Norfolk, all signs that the peak that was linked to the outbreak has passed and our need for additional support is reducing, I feel that’s a really encouraging, optimistic position.”

She said in Norfolk, the overall rate was nine cases per 100,000 people, compared to the rate for England of 26.

MORE: Norfolk below coronavirus ‘alert’ level amid plea not to get tests for a runny noseMeanwhile, following more than a week of partial closure, the Attleborough chicken factory this evening confirmed it would be fully operational from the beginning of next week.Blaine Van Rensburg, Banham Poultry managing director, said: “The past few weeks have been incredibly difficult, but after discussions with our shareholders today, I look forward to reopening the site on Monday and welcoming back our 800 employees, so that we can begin to supply our loyal customers again.

“The safety of our staff and the local community remains our highest priority. Working alongside the relevant public health authorities, we have added even further enhancements, such as touch-activated door hand sanitisers, to reduce the risk of infection.”

MORE: Norfolk hospital admits first coronavirus patient in two months

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