COVID-19 infection rates have risen to their ‘highest levels’ yet in Carlisle and Eden, says Cumbria’s most senior public health expert.
Colin Cox, Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, spelled out the scale of the local coronavirus challenge as it was confirmed that Carlisle now has the highest infection rate in the county, with nearly 600 cases.
Government data shows that in the last week, 585 people in the Carlisle local authority area tested positive for Covid-19. The area’s infection rate per 100,000 of population is 538.3 – just above Eden.
Mr Cox said in recent days the new variant of the virus – up to 70 per cent more infectious – has fuelled a marked rise in new cases.
Meanwhile, hospitals throughout the country are being warned to expect a surge of admissions similar to that seen in London – again as a result of the new variant and increased social mixing at Christmas.
The level of pressure on NHS services locally prompted hospital bosses in Carlisle and Whitehaven to declare a top-level alert, while there has also been an appeal from Cumbria County Council for everybody to follow the Tier 4 guidance and stay at home and stay local.
Mr Cox said the number of people testing covid positive is increasing everywhere – but especially in Carlisle and Eden, where rates have risen to their highest level yet.
He said: “Driven by the new strain, rates in Carlisle and Eden are now very high, and are rising fast in other parts of the county. Rates in Barrow, Copeland and Allerdale have doubled in the last 4-5 days.
Hospitals here are also under growing pressure and the NHS cannot afford for the rates to go any higher.
“It’s essential that people follow all the guidance and that we all do everything we can to stop the spread.”
Peter Rooney, chief operating officer for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The NHS is here for you if you need medical help, but we want to make sure it can continue to help those in need.
“There is no doubt that our services across the health and care system are under pressure and we are grateful to our exceptional staff who are coping with an escalation in demand.
“We are urging everyone to follow the guidance to reduce further community transmission of this very infectious new variant of the disease, to ensure we don’t increase pressure on all our emergency services.
“It’s never been more important for everyone in our community to follow the public health guidance and do everything possible to reduce transmission of this virus.”
Over the whole pandemic, just under 4,300 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Carlisle. Across Cumbria, during the lifetime of the pandemic, there have been 15,027 confirmed cases.
The current seven-day infection rate for Eden now stands at 508.9 infections per 100,000.
The number of positive cases in the last week was 271.
The area of Cumbria with the third highest infection rate is now Allerdale: the figure there is 243.5 per 100,000, with 238 cases confirmed in the last week.
In South Lakeland, over the same period, there were 189 people who tested positive.
This equates to an infection rate of just under 180 per 100,000.
At the bottom of the county’s covid infection rate table are Copeland and Barrow – formerly an area of surging infections.
In Barrow, there have been only 80 confirmed cases in the last seven days, giving an infection rate of 119 per 100,000 while in Copeland there were 78 people who tested positive in the week.
This equals an infection rate per 100,000 of 114.
In Cumbria as a whole, there are currently 1,441 cases, which translates into an infection rate per 100,000 of population as 288.2.
The most recently available figures for covid hospital admissions dates from seven days ago, when there were 112 people recorded as being in hospital in Carlisle and Whitehaven, with 13 patients requiring breathing support from ventilators.
Sixteen patients were admitted on Sunday, December 27.
At the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, which operates Furness General Hospital as well as hospitals in Lancashire, there were 137 covid patients in hospital, six of them on ventilators.
Covid deaths data provides a sobering insight to the virus’s deadly potential.
At North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, which runs both The Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, 269 fatalities have been reported.
Of these, 16 were in the last two weeks.
At University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which manages Furness General Hospital and other hospitals in Lancashire, 384 deaths have been reported. Over the last 15 days, 34 covid deaths have been reported by the trust. The Tier 4 guidance includes:
* Stay at home – and only leave home to buy food, seek medical support, or work if you cannot work from home
* Wear a face covering in public places
* Wash your hands more frequently
* Adhere to social distancing.
The NHS is advising people to only use A&E if they have an urgent need and to make use of the 111.nhs.uk or NHS 111 for advice. But people should still keep any booked appointments unless they have been contacted. You can help by choosing the service most appropriate for your needs.
The available services includes:
* 111.nhs.uk/ NHS 111 – this service provides 24 hour advice on any healthcare need
* Pharmacy – think pharmacy first where there are trained professionals who can prescribe medicines and give advice
* GP – for ongoing or persistent medical issues
* Minor Injuries and Urgent Treatment centres – for urgent but not life-threatening issues
* A&E – for life-threatening and serious emergencies only.
You can find more information on coronavirus.
The latest local information: https://www.cumbria.gov.uk/stopthespread
The latest national advice: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
The latest health advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
The latest Cumbrian data has been released as national figures confirmed there were a further 57,725 people who tested positive for Covid in the last 24 hours – a new daily high.
This was the fifth day in a row new daily cases have been over 50,000. Another 445 deaths of people who had tested positive within the previous 28 days were reported on Saturday.
That brings the total number of deaths to 74,570.