Covid-19 infections in Derbyshire are nearly back at their towering January peak and on trend to hit new heights – and hospital inpatient numbers, while lower than six months ago, are increasing.
Infection levels are on a near vertical upwards trajectory, just as lockdown restrictions are to be dropped after the weekend.
But, after thousands have been vaccinated in Derbyshire, the hospital admission rate is far lower than previously.
In the most recent week of data – to July 13 – there have been 4,074 Covid cases recorded in Derbyshire.
This is more than ten times the weekly figure the county was clocking a month ago (379 cases) and a 50 per cent increase in the past week (from 2,713 cases).
Alongside this, there have now been more than 2,000 cases of the Delta variant identified in Derbyshire, around half of which are in Derby (454) and the High Peak (402). This is up from 1,672 last week.
Not all Covid cases are being analysed to see if they are the Delta variant, but health chiefs in Derbyshire have confirmed almost all new cases of the virus are the Delta strain.
The Delta variant is more transmissible – spreads faster – and is more likely to result in the hospitalisation of the unvaccinated population.
The current level of infections is being reflected in an increasing number of patients being hospitalised with the virus, despite widespread vaccination.
In the past week, our hospitals have gone from 20 Covid-19 inpatients to the current 37 inpatients with the virus.
There are now 24 Covid-19 patients at Royal Derby Hospital (up from 14 last week); seven at Chesterfield Royal Hospital (up from five); and six at Queen’s Hospital in Burton (up from one).
Of these Covid-19 patients, nine are in intensive care (up from two); six of whom are being treated at Royal Derby and three at Chesterfield Royal.
The rising tide of Covid infections has now taken the county back to the position it was in during the final week of January.
During that time, the county was coming down from its highest recorded infection peak – 5,161 cases in a week.
However, at that time, our hospitals were caring for far more Covid inpatients – 709 in total, the highest at any one time to date. A total of 45 patients with the virus were being treated in intensive care.
This comparison shows the worth of vaccination and also the vast amount of knowledge that our healthcare system now has about treating Covid-19.
As it stands, 88.93 per cent of Derbyshire adults have now had a vaccine and 72.58 per cent have had both jab doses, as of the latest data – to July 11.
A detailed breakdown of vaccinations in Derbyshire shows a significant proportion of those aged 18 to 34 have not yet had a vaccine, despite being eligible for one either through a booked or walk-in appointment across the county.
It shows 30 per cent of Derbyshire residents aged 18 to 24; 28.1 per cent of residents aged 25 to 29; and 20 per cent of residents aged 30 to 34 have not had a Covid vaccine.
Health leaders within Derbyshire and nationally have stressed that high levels of community infection, while we are still forging through the vaccination process, carries risks.
This includes: A greater chance of creating vaccine-resistant variants, a higher likelihood of the virus reaching the vulnerable; and the potential spread of long Covid and all of its associated side effects to a much wider portion of the population.
A key difference for our local NHS services now, though, compared to January, is that our hospitals and other health facilities are now edging back to full capacity as opposed to being in a period in which all but urgent, emergency and cancer operations have been paused.
Services have been scaled back up due to the immediate need to start wading through the immense waiting list backlog, with thousands across the county now on hold for treatment for more than a year – when usually this would be a once-in-a-blue-moon type scenario.
This means the overall pressure on our NHS from general health needs and services other than Covid was already far higher than in January, with the response to the virus now – while lower – presenting a significant demand on resources of all kinds.
A crucial factor in all this, local health officials have made clear, is the exhaustion, fatigue and mental health of staff who have been working through the pandemic response for more than 18 months.
Staff need time to recover and it is believed a substantial number will have post-traumatic stress due to the pandemic and the demand on their time and mental fortitude – not to mention the emotional drain.
All of this is a key reason why NHS services in Derbyshire and Derby have urged caution from residents, particularly from July 19, and not to be complacent and “let their guards down”.
It is also why our services are maintaining mandatory face coverings, social distancing and regular hand sanitising on hospital and healthcare sites – for staff, patients and visitors.
Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, has said: “I don’t think we should underestimate the fact that we could get into trouble again surprisingly fast.
“I think saying the numbers in hospital are low now, that does not mean the numbers will be low in hospital in five, six, seven, eight weeks’ time.
“They could actually be really quite serious. We are not by any means out of the woods yet.”