Easing of Covid restrictions this month ‘will present a major challenge’

East Riding Council’s public health lead has welcomed the first week of no local coronavirus deaths since summer but warned further restriction easing this month presented a “major challenge”.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 8:35 am
East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s public health director Andy Kingdom.

Public health director Andy Kingdom said going more than a week without a recorded coronavirus death was “excellent” news.

But he added while a feared surge from this month’s restrictions easing had not materialised, those venturing inside venues from Monday, May 17 will be 20 times more likely to catching coronavirus indoors without being vaccinated.

It comes as the total number of new coronavirus cases recorded in the East Riding fell from 123 between Tuesday, April 13 and Monday, April 19 to 106 the following week.

The seven day rolling rate fell from 36 per 100,000 people to 31 during the same period.

Mr Kingdom said the absence of deaths and the falling numbers showed the links coronavirus needed to spread were being “broken”.

The director said: “We’ve gone well over a week without any reported deaths, to go that long without them is excellent.

“It’s the first time since last summer that we’ve gone so long without deaths, it shows the vaccines and restrictions have clearly worked.

“There’s been a big fall in cases among the over 60s, on some days there’s been no cases at all.

“We have seen a slight increase in cases among older school children but not a big one.

“The numbers in the south of Goole have gone up after a big outbreak at a warehouse in Selby.

“Quite a few of our residents work there or have family and friends that do so that’s pushed the figures up a bit.

“There’s currently around 10 or 11 coronavirus patients in Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital, there’s only one in each on a ventilator at the moment.”

Mr Kingdom said the Humber’s local test and trace system, the first of its kind in the country, was so far showing promising results.

He said: “The contact tracing system we have in the Humber is a pilot, it uses national resources but they’re deployed locally.

“It’s run by a local company and it means that for someone who tests positive they’ll be followed up on by a local voice with local knowledge who will be able to offer advice and support including on finances.

“The thinking behind that is people will be more engaged and reassured if they hear a local voice on the phone.

“If this pilot scheme is successful it will change the way test and trace is done nationally.

“And it’s part of building a better public health system for the long term, ideally we’ll be able to scale it up and down as and when we need it in future.

“There’s no issues with getting a test now, they can be ordered online and they’re free.”

The director said although numbers continued to fall, reflecting that most East Riding residents were sticking the rules, there were no guarantees of staying on course once restrictions ease further.

Mr Kingdom said: “The next roadmap date will be a major challenge because that’s when people will be able to gather inside where it’s 20 times more likely that infections can be passed on.

“We’re expecting to see an increase in infections after Monday, May 17 as more households begin to mix in those environments, but we don’t think it will be the surge we were worried about.

“We’ve still got 85,000 people who haven’t had their vaccines yet, there’s a lot of people out there susceptible to the virus.

“The question is whether the easing will translate into more hospitalisations and deaths, that’s what we’ll be looking at between May and June.

“It’s difficult to guarantee a straight road or to judge what will happen, I’m feeling cautious at the moment because there’s so many variables that come into play.

“It comes back to the tug of war between coronavirus and aggressive variants on one side and our behaviour, the vaccine rollout and restrictions on the other.

“Most people are following the rules fine, but it’s when behaviour changes and we step away from our side in the tug of war that’s the worry.

“We could easily rush ahead if people stop wearing masks when they start meeting indoors, but that’s what the virus needs to spread.

“So there will be rises in cases but it’s about making them digestible.

“We’ve not had to close any business which reopened earlier this month, that shows the pubs, restaurants and others are getting it right.

“There will be exceptions, but the numbers don’t lie.

“With vaccines, as we go further down the age range it’s more about stopping transmissions.

“We have to break the triangle between schools, homes and workplaces, the thing about the vaccine getting down to the 40 and above age range is that a lot of them will be parents with school children so that will help.

“A total of 95,000 people have now had both their doses, that’s a third of all those eligible and 205,000 or around 71 per cent have had their first.

“There have been some lumps and bumps with vaccine supplies lately but we think we have enough to do the second doses for those due to get them.

“I’m confident we can get to the next roadmap date, but it’s more of a probable than an absolute.”