Coronavirus restrictions should be upped now, says public health chief

Friday, October 23rd, 2020 1:43pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Derbyshire lockdown restrictions should be upped now, its public health chief has urged.

Dean Wallace (pictured) says the whole of the county, including Derby, needs to be put into tier two lockdown now, to stop the spread of Covid.

This is based on the advice of his epidemiologists (virus experts) and extensive public health analysis.

But, ultimately, the final decision rests with central government and Mr Wallace, Derbyshire County Council’s public health director, says he is unsure how much his opinion, and that of his expert team, are taken into consideration.

A third of the county’s population are in tier two (Chesterfield, Erewash, Glossopdale and North East Derbyshire) but hundreds of thousands of people living in areas not in tier two and in the base level restrictions have also seen the fastest rising rates of infections.

Mr Wallace said eight days ago that it was “inevitable” that more areas of Derbyshire are plunged into tier two – which includes a ban on different households mixing indoors, including in pubs and restaurants – when levels of infections were already rising steeply across the whole county.

Mr Wallace, talking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service today (October 23), said: “I’m guessing we will be put into tier two soon, it is only a matter of time. We have got a virus that is spreading in the community, seeing the rates increase and have seen some fairly rapid increases in some areas, the epidemiologists are pointing us in that direction (tier two).

“I think we need to be looking at tier two seriously and try and get in front of the curve to try and avoid further escalation.

“Ultimately it ends up being a national decision and it is not all in our control. But looking at the epidemiologists and the public health perspective my general view now would be sooner would be better than later.

“That’s for two reasons, one is the rate is increasing everywhere, across the county, and in some places, worryingly quickly, and I also think we are in a confusing position now.

“We have got tier three areas around us and then we have got a mix of tier two and tier one areas within the county, and that makes messaging more tricky.

“At one point it made sense to look at Glossopdale separately and how that relates to Greater Manchester but now I think where we are, in a very different position than we were in two weeks ago, I think from a public health perspective it would make sense if Derbyshire is all in the same direction.

“It is obviously not my decision but it would make sense to have Derbyshire and Derby in tier two altogether, it would help to have one consistent message – that would be helpful on a number of levels.

“If people follow the measures we would have a chance to turn the curve around and mitigate, as we had earlier in the year.

“At the minute, we are just going to continue to increase and that is going to be a real issue for people’s health and well-being and also, ultimately, for the NHS and hospitals in coping with that.

“No doubt about it, we are heading in the wrong direction and any infections now are locked in and we won’t see the impact of any measures for a couple of weeks after they are in place, even if people strictly follow it.

“At the moment we are seeing the unmitigated rate rising. If we don’t slow this down now hospitals will be overwhelmed and schools will be shut. That’s why we need mitigation.

“If you solve the public health problem you solve the economic problem, you can’t run the economy full tilt and control the virus, I don’t stand for the argument that it is one versus the other.

“My position as director of public health is that my epidemiologists are telling me we are heading towards requiring tier two restrictions in Derbyshire, that’s what the public health picture is telling me and that’s what I would feed back.

“Given where we are and considering decisions already made in other areas of Derbyshire, and seeing every area following the same trajectory it would seem illogical not to approach this as a county from now on, instead of a piecemeal approach.

“I don’t know how equally my arguments will be taken into account and others may want the opposite.”

Mr Wallace says Glossopdale is not at risk of being put into tier three along with adjoining Greater Mancheser, which adjoins it. He says tier two interventions have already seen the rate of infections level off in the area and there are “small shoots of hope”.

This comes as two thirds of the county now has a rate of Covid-19 cases of more than 200 per 100,000 people, double the threshold judged to show dangerous levels.

Our hospitals say that cases are spiking in young people and in the elderly, Covid hospital admissions in Derbyshire have tripled in two weeks (to more than 150) to half the level seen during the pandemic peak and case numbers are doubling in around a fortnight.

Yesterday (October 22) Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, said the key reasons for Stoke, Slough and Coventry being put into tier two from Saturday (October 24) were:

  • A rate of new cases of more than 100 per 100,000 people

  • Cases doubling every fortnight

  • Rising numbers of cases among the over 60s

None of the three Derbyshire areas with the largest increases in their case rate week on week are in tier two restrictions.

South Derbyshire’s has surged by 86 per cent between October 6-12 and October 13-19; followed by Amber Valley with a 79 per cent increase and Bolsover with a 73 per cent increase.

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