'Don't mix, shop online' - People urged to go beyond lockdown rules
- Credit: Norfolk County Council
People in Norfolk and Waveney are being urged to go even further than the current lockdown rules amid mounting pressure on hospitals.
The national lockdown restrictions permit people to exercise with one other person and to go out for essential shopping.
But Norfolk County Council is urging people not to mix socially with anyone and to shop online where possible.
It comes as more than 91pc of the beds in Norfolk's hospitals are full, including with 771 people who have tested positive for coronavirus. More than 40 are in critical care beds.
Dr Louise Smith, director of public health, said more than 75pc of cases in Norfolk were due to the more transmissible variant and that there had also been three cases of another variant which originated in South Africa.
And she feared it would be some weeks before the pressure on hospitals eased.
There have been 7,889 new cases in Norfolk over the past 14 days.
It also emerged that the NHS has asked Norfolk County Council if it could help by providing 200 staff to assist, including feeding and observing patients in hospital wards.
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Dr Smith said: "At the moment the rise in the number of people being admitted to hospital is very steep indeed and we anticipate that will continue for a week or two.
"Mainly due to the new, faster spreading variant of Covid, cases are rising rapidly and the graph of hospital admissions is almost vertical.
“We must all act as if we have the virus and that everyone we meet has the virus.
“By only going out when necessary and by staying local, we minimise our contact with others and reduce opportunities for the virus to spread.”
She said it was too early to see any impact on hospital admissions from the lockdown restrictions.
The council launched a new Chances campaign, which urges people to go further than the restrictions imposed by the government.
The council said the virus would be better contained if people did not mix and stressed exercise should be done locally.
Council leader Andrew Proctor said: "Covid is spread by contact, so make sure we keep contacts to a minimum.
"Staying local means exactly what it says. You wouldn't expect anyone to say 'I live in Norwich, so I'm local to Cromer, so I'll go for a walk on the beach there'.
“For 10 months, most people in Norfolk have made personal sacrifices and followed all the rules, to suppress the virus and protect themselves and their community.
“Vaccination will eventually get us moving towards a more normal life.
"But we must not drop our guard now. Each time we leave home, we give Covid more chances to spread. We all need to ensure we’re following the rules.
“That’s why we are launching a new campaign encouraging people to stay at home, stay local and shop safely. It’s essential that, having come this far, we all take personal responsibility to keep following the golden rules – hands, face, space and social distancing.”
The council said people should shop online if possible and go alone on essential shopping trips.
Melanie Craig, executive lead for Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership, said: “There has been a significant increase in the number of patients in hospital with Covd-19 over the last few weeks and this number has continued to rise.
“We have local plans and procedures in place, including additional surge capacity, for responding to the increasing demands on the NHS.”
Of the three cases of the South African variant in Norfolk, Dr Smith said: "All of the cases are linked to travel to South Africa, so at this stage that variant is not really circulating within the general community."
The number of people in Norfolk who have now died after testing positive for Covid-19 stands at 755, with 55 further deaths in the week up to January 12.
There are more than 140 outbreaks in care homes and settings, up one on the previous seven days, 57 in businesses (up four), and 34 in schools and colleges.
Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at Norfolk County Council, said: "I welcome anything that reinforces the need to do whatever we can to keep the virus at bay will the vaccines are rolled out.
"The messaging is not strong enough and 'chances' are not what we are talking about.
"This is high risk life or death risk taking. It needs to be said loud and clear and time and time again this is not business as usual with a few inconvenient tweaks."