'Covid testing failures meant Derbyshire lost chance to avoid tougher lockdowns'

Friday, October 16th, 2020 12:33pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Failures in the Government's Covid test programme meant Derbyshire lost the chance to avoid tougher lockdowns, its public health chief has said.

Dean Wallace, Derbyshire County Council’s public health director, has now warned it is “a matter of when, rather than if” other areas of the county, including Derby, are plunged into tier two lockdown.

Three Derbyshire districts – Chesterfield, Erewash and North East Derbyshire – are set to join Glossopdale in the High Peak in tier two restrictions from tomorrow (Saturday, October 17).

Households living within these areas will be banned from mixing with other households indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.

Since yesterday’s announcement that those three districts would be pushed into tier two, case rates across the county and city have continued to increase.

Mr Wallace says the impact of the extra measures will not be seen until they are in place for a couple of weeks, with cases in the community and in hospital expected to continue increasing.

The High Peak has now hit more than 200 cases per 100,000 people in the week October 6-12, with Erewash on 184, North East Derbyshire on 168 and Chesterfield on 136. The national average rate in England is 93.

Derby, which has a rate of 141 cases per 100,000 people, higher than in Chesterfield, remains in tier one, along with most of England.

Mr Wallace was asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service if it was inevitable that once case rates were progressing at pace the districts were sure to need extra restrictions.

He said: “Yes, it was. Once we saw cases get to a certain level and areas were pushing over 100 cases per 100,000 people consistently, it becomes harder to reign that in with contact tracing.”

At the end of September an error on a Public Health England spreadsheet saw nearly 16,000 reported cases delayed in being counted and referred to local authorities.

Mr Wallace said: “What tipped us over the edge in terms of doing that follow-up was the weekend when we had the retrospective data put on us, which changed the picture quite significantly and if we had had that in dribs and drabs throughout the week we could have picked that up and maybe we could have had a chance for holding on for a bit longer.

“But I think it would have been delaying the inevitable once we reached a certain level, to be honest.”

The PHE error saw 704 cases reported in Derbyshire as a whole in the week September 25 to October 1, nearly three times the number of infections reported in the county at the start of September month when there were 262.

Up until the inclusion of the missing data (which was reported to be for September 25 through to October 2) the highest number of new cases confirmed in the county and city within 24 hours in the past month was 92.

However, following the inclusion of the absent cases there were four consecutive days (September 28 to October 1) with higher totals, all hitting more than 100 cases.

Mr Wallace continued: “We may have had a chance in delaying tier two restrictions, but I don’t know if we would have been able to stop it. Amber Valley is a good example, we saw cases rising there in the Heanor area at the start of the month (October) and took action there.

“If we hadn’t have taken action there I think Amber Valley would have been an area of intervention, but it is not and it’s got one of the lower rates in the county still (112 cases per 100,000 people).

“The same with Glossopdale, we have probably, through everything that happened, slowed that down by two or three weeks and then once you get past a certain point you can’t do much with contact tracing.”

Cases in Glossopdale began to spike in early August and Mr Wallace said national NHS Test and Trace teams had not made the link between the local area and travel into and out of the highly-virulent adjoining Tameside and Greater Manchester.

Mr Wallace said: “Contact tracing works when the rates are really low and then you can shut it down, once it is in the community you are slowing it rather than stopping it.

“Everywhere in Derbyshire is following that ever-increasing trend and if everywhere carries on at some point or other every part of Derbyshire could end up in tier two, and it is probably a matter of when, rather than if, given the amount of community spread we have got going on.

“Bolsover, Amber Valley, South Derbyshire and the Dales are rising but at a slower rate and if we keep increasing steadily and that is sustained ultimately the R number (rate of infection) grows and you need extra measures to have any chance of slowing it down.

“What we have to remember is that the infections in the next week or two are already baked in because of the way the virus works and the incubation period, the people that show symptoms next week have already got the virus incubating.

“Any measures we do on Saturday aren’t going to impact for the next couple of weeks and whatever we see in hospitals is the back catalogue from the past two weeks, so it’ll take three or four weeks to see the impact and then a further two weeks to see what impact that (the measures) will have on the spread.

“Other areas have a relatively high chance of moving into measures in the not too distant future.”

He urged people to reduce the amount of social interaction they have with other households now, whether they are in tier two restrictions or not and to act as if everyone they come into contact with has Covid-19.

The case rates for each area of Derbyshire per 100,000 for the week October 6-12 are as follows:

Amber Valley – 112

Bolsover – 127

Chesterfield – 136

Derbyshire Dales – 104

Derby – 141

Erewash – 184

High Peak – 224

North East Derbyshire – 168

South Derbyshire – 108

For comparison, the rate in England is 93 per 100,000 people; 193 in Leicester; and 880 in Nottingham.

Weather

  • Wed

    10°C

  • Thu

    13°C

  • Fri

    12°C

  • Sat

    14°C

  • Sun

    16°C