283,383 NW cases as month of restrictions needed for Xmas break

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the North West since the start of the pandemic now stands at 283,383.

The figure has risen by more than 50,000 in the last two weeks, according to analysis of Public Health England data.

There are now 56,806 cases in Lancashire, 9,320 in Cumbria, 61,615 in Merseyside, 131,993 in Greater Manchester and 16,178 in Cheshire.

Despite the circa 53,000 new cases reported since the start of national lockdown, the infection rates across the North West continue to fall with a dramatically different picture to that on November 4.

Only two weeks ago, some eight of the top 10 infection rates in England were located in the North West, with Oldham first, Blackburn with Darwen second and Wigan third.

The latest infection rate figures from PHE show that Oldham has now dropped to eigth, Blackburn with Darwen down to ninth and Wigan down to 38th.

Rochdale is the only other borough to feature in the top 20 list while Bury is in the top 30 infection rates.

The data below includes the total number of cases and overall infection rate for each area since the pandemic began. Many of these cases will no longer be active.

These are the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus by North West borough as of today (November 18):

There are 42,405 cases in Lancashire, 10,232 in Bolton, 6,326 in Bury, 6,043 in Cheshire East, 5,717 in Cheshire West and Chester, 6,637 in Cumbria, 3,460 in Halton, 6,248 in Knowsley, 18,843 in Liverpool, 20,012 in Manchester, 9,400 in Oldham, 8,179 in Rochdale, 8,611 in Salford, 7,986 in Sefton, 5,640 in St Helens, 7,047 in Stockport, 6,956 in Tameside, 6,125 in Trafford, 5,846 in Warrington, 10,562 in Wigan and 7,955 in Wirral.

The new Covid-19 case and infection rate figures come as scientists warn each day of greater freedom around Christmas could require an extra five days of lockdown restrictions.

It has been reported households could be allowed to mix indoors for a five-day period starting on Christmas Eve – meaning a potential 25-day period of tighter measures into January if such advice was implemented.

The public will need to make “every effort” to keep coronavirus cases low in December in order to gather during the festive season, a Public Health England (PHE) director said.

Dr Susan Hopkins, a senior medical adviser to the Government’s Covid-19 response, suggested tougher restrictions could be needed either side of Christmas if curbs are to be eased for a time.

She told a Downing Street briefing: “We are very keen that we have a Christmas as close to normal as possible.

“That requires all of us to make every effort over this national restriction period and even in early December to get the cases as low as possible and to reduce the risk of transmission within households and between families.

“A final decision will rest with the Government and we look forward to hearing what those plans are.”

At the briefing, she said scientists had suggested that one day of greater freedom required two days of restrictions, but PHE later said Dr Hopkins “misspoke” and that the Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) advice had referred to modelling indicating that for every one day of relaxation, five days of tighter restrictions could be needed.

Dr Hopkins told the briefing: “So coming into Christmas, we need to be very careful about the number of contacts we have to reduce transmission before Christmas and get our cases as low as possible.

“Hopefully the Government will make the decision that will allow us to have some mixing… and once we have got past the Christmas period, if there has been some release and some socialisation, we will all have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again.”

It comes as ministers work out what new tiers should replace the previous system once England emerges from the current lockdown on December 2.

Scientists including Dr Hopkins have said the previous Tier 1 had very little effect on reducing coronavirus cases, with the highest impact found from enhanced restrictions in Tier 3 areas.

Deputy chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean told Wednesday’s briefing that Sage had been examining a potential relaxation of measures over Christmas.

She said: “We did send some advice in over the weekend, but we genuinely don’t know what decisions have been made.”

Asked whether household mixing could be allowed if there were other trade-offs, Dame Angela said: “What’s really important is we go into a festive week, when we want to mix with our friends and our family, with the number of infections in the community as low as possible.”

She said the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in the community had risen steeply in September and October but had now slowed down.

Some areas with high levels of infection had already started to see a drop before the lockdown was brought in on November 5, she added.

The latest reproduction rate – the R value – of the virus is still above one, according to most recent estimates, meaning the disease is still spreading.

Dame Angela said it would not be a problem for easing England’s lockdown if the R rate remained above one next week, due to the lag in calculating the value.

But she said an increase in people’s activity on the day before England’s latest lockdown came into effect was a “worry to us”.

Asked whether that was a concern when considering measures ahead of Christmas, she said: “We are concerned about how can we have a safe run-up to Christmas so that we can have some kind of a good family Christmas.”

Dame Angela also said that while admissions to hospital during the March/April lockdown were halving every three weeks, she did not think that would be achieved this time round.

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