COVID REVIEW: Call for ‘huge push’ as infections remain at a worrying level across the city region
Coronavirus infections have continued to plunge across the city region despite a slight slowdown at the beginning of last week.
Health chiefs expressed concern last week as the rate of progress against Covid-19 appeared to slow, but the latest figures suggest the pace has picked up again.
However, cases of the virus remain very high across the region with only a week to go until Prime Minister Boris Johnson lays out his plan for ending lockdown in England.
It is currently expected that schools will reopen from March 8, and public health bosses will hope the rapid fall in infections continues up to that point given fears a return to the classroom will push the R number back above 1.
The latest infection figures for the city region show cases have fallen a long way since the peak of the third wave on January 8, when parts of the region recorded infection rates well above 1,000 case sper 100,000 people.
The infection rates per 100,000 residents for each borough during the week up to February 11 are shown below, with the total number of cases in brackets.
Halton – 198.6 (257)
Knowsley – 292.3 (441)
Liverpool – 215.4 (1,073)
St Helens – 284.1 (513)
Sefton – 206.9 (473)
Wirral – 146.0 (473)
City Region – 213.5 (3,329)
These figures show significant progress since the peak, with cases having fallen around 80% in most boroughs since January 8.
But these infection rates are still well above the levels we would want to see before coming out of lockdown.
When the ban on mixing in private homes in the city region was announced in September, infection rates in all boroughs were well below 200 cases per 100,000.
And when Leicester was put into the first ever city-wide lockdown last summer it had an infection rate of just 130 cases per 100,000.
However, after last week’s slight slowdown, the pace at which cases are falling remained steady or in some boroughs even increased in the week up to February 11.
Here are the percentage decreases in cases recorded in each borough during the week up to February 11, with the previous week’s decrease in brackets.
Halton – 35.9% (32.7%)
Knowsley – 20.3% (40.3%)
Liverpool – 25.1% (26.0%)
St Helens – 25.9% (24.8%)
Sefton – 32.5% (22%)
Wirral – 34.8% (28.5%)
City Region – 28.4% (28.2%)
These figures show good progress is still being made, with cases falling faster in Sefton and Wirral than they were previously.
But Knowsley has proved an exception, with the pact of change halving over the past week. Local health chiefs will hope this is only a blip rather than a sign that lockdown is becoming less effective in one of the country’s hardest-hit boroughs.
The figures support previous statements by Liverpool’s director of public health Matt Ashton, who has said he believes the city has passed the worst of the crisis.
On Friday he called for “a huge push over the next four weeks” to put the city “ in a much stronger position when the government decides to start to ease lockdown restrictions and that will give us more of the freedoms that we all crave”.
He said: “The rollout of the vaccine is going really well, but the reality is that it will take many months for us to immunise a large proportion of the population.
“In the meantime, we have to continue to do all the things we have been doing such as social distancing, wearing face coverings and getting tested regularly if we are going out to work.
“We know from some analysis of the data that middle-aged men are driving the infection rate in some areas. That is why testing, and self-isolating if you test positive, are so important.”
Further hope comes from the number of deaths recorded in the region, which have continued to fall rapidly.
Here are the number of deaths recorded in each borough for the week up to February 11, with the previous week’s total in brackets.
Halton – 9 (15)
Knowsley – 14 (29)
Liverpool – 32 (64)
St Helens – 20 (41)
Sefton – 35 (49)
Wirral – 35 (42)
City Region 145 (240)
The weekly death toll has now fallen below the peak seen during the second wave and is less than half what it was at the peak of the third wave, when the region recorded 310 deaths in a single week at the end of January.
However, hospitals remain under considerable pressure.
Peter Hampshire, who leads the critical care team at the city’s main hospital trust, said last week: “We’ve seen the number of patients in hospital dropping, I think about four weeks ago we had over 550 covid patients – last time I checked it was about 366, which is obviously good.
“I was anticipating less people coming into ITU, but it has been weird in terms of numbers, we had a little bit of space and then they ramped up again.
“So we’ve still got 40 patients with covid in intensive care and around about 20 patients having CPAP(Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) on specially adapted wards.
“We have used other spaces to treat people without covid who really need it – like the theatre recovery area.
“We are running about 82 critical care beds as opposed to the normal 59.
“But we don’t have trained nurses for all those beds so nurses are currently looking after more patients than they should – and others are coming to help them out to try and take the workload off them.
“Everyone is pulling together and doing it but it is a real strain.”
Words: Chris McKeon, Local Democracy Reporter
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