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STREET SCENES: Cases of Covid are still falling across the region


With the warm weather over the weekend, many were out and about enjoying the sunshine.

However, residents are being urged to continue to stay at home ahead of the first phase of relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions next month. Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a four-step road map, with strict conditions, for gradually lifting coronavirus restrictions throughout Spring and Summer. The first step, on Monday 8 March, will see schools and colleges reopen and allow the public to take part in recreation or exercise outdoors with their own household or one other person outside their household. However, for the time being, residents must continue to stay at home to protect their families and friends and to reduce the spread of the virus.

Cases of Covid-19 are still falling across the Liverpool City Region with only a week to go until children return to school. Infections have reached their lowest levels since mid-December as lockdown continues to suppress the virus. Some boroughs have even seen their infection rates drop below 100 cases per 100,000 residents. The continued fall in cases will provide some hope for local health bosses that any rise in infections when schools return next week will be manageable. With the return to school set to take place next Monday, the latest infection rates for the City Region as a whole stand at – 114 per 100,000 residents.  This figure represent huge reductions since the peak of the third wave in early January, when more than 1% of the city region caught Covid-19 in a single week. While for most places these figures are the lowest since mid-December, Halton's infection rate is the lowest in the borough since mid-September. However, both St Helens and Knowsley's case rates remain high and seem unlikely to fall much below 100 cases per 100,000 residents by the beginning of next week. For comparison, an infection rate of 100 cases per 100,000 people was the point at which the government began to consider placing a region in tighter restrictions last summer, while Leicester had an infection rate of around 130 cases per 100,000 people when it was put into the country's first local lockdown last year.

Public health chiefs will see further cause for optimism in the fact that the pace at which infections are falling has not really slowed down over the past few weeks. Even so, cases are likely to be significantly higher than they were when schools returned last September following the first national lockdown. This could be a cause for concern, but there are key differences including the fact that the return to school is not being accompanied by a wider relaxing of restrictions this time. The other big difference is the vaccine, which has already been given to nearly a third of city region residents.
Public health bosses will hope that this means the virus is less likely to spread and, if vulnerable people do catch Covid, they will be less likely to get seriously ill and require hospital treatment.

Only time will tell if this is the case. Either way, the reopening of schools is the first major test of the vaccine's impact and, hopefully, the first step on the road back to normality.

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