"Sensible" to delay lockdown-lifting as Covid rates rise across Lancashire, public health boss says
Lancashire is one of the areas that lies “at the heart” of the government’s decision to delay the lifting of the last remaining Covid restrictions by a month.
That was the message from the county’s director of public health, Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi, after the Prime Minister announced that stage four of the roadmap out of lockdown would be put back until 19th July.
The decision means that capacity limits will remain in place in hospitality, entertainment and sporting venues – while it will still not be permitted for more than six people or two households to mix indoors.
Just two hours before Boris Johnson addressed the nation from Downing Street, the latest infection data showed that the top six council areas with the highest Covid case rates in the UK were all in Lancashire – with three more in the top 20.
The county had an infection rate of 236 cases per 100,000 people in the week to 9th June – more than triple the average rate across England of 67 and Lancashire’s highest since 6th February, when it was emerging from its third Covid wave.
The highest rates of infection across most of Lancashire are in the 15-19-year-old and 20-24-year-old age groups. However, individual cases are much lower in the over-60s than other age ranges.
Dr. Karunanithi acknowledged that the delay to the complete end of lockdown would “come as a disappointment to many”.
However, he added: “It is the sensible approach given the rapid rise in cases that is being felt across the country.
“Lancashire is at the heart of this, with large numbers of infections in East and Central parts of the county, which is being driven by the Delta variant that was first discovered in India. Cases are also rising fast in other parts of the county.
“We are seeing a rise in hospital admissions, particularly in younger residents, although it is still too early to know the full impact of this wave. One impact that is clear is the significant disruption the rise in cases is causing to our children and young people’s education, with new outbreaks emerging almost on a daily basis.”
Research published in The Lancet on Monday suggests that the Delta variant of the virus – which first emerged in India – doubles the risk of hospitalisation for anybody who contracts it compared to previous strains.
The Delta variant is also thought to be up to 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha or Kent strain that was dominant during the first half of the year.
Dr, Karunanithi said that fact was one of the reasons it was vital that Lancashire residents took advantage of the additional testing available in the county after it was declared an “enhanced response area” last week. Lab-analysed PCR tests are now available to all residents whether they have symptoms or not.
“We are therefore strongly encouraging all residents, including children of primary school age, to take up this offer so that we can break the chains of transmission.
“It is also imperative that everyone receives two doses of the Covid vaccine to give themselves maximum protection against the Delta variant.
“As part of this strengthened package of support, we are ramping up our vaccination offers. This includes a number of pharmacy vaccination sites, alongside our mass vaccination centres, that will be providing walk-in appointments all this week.
“It is important you check opening times and which doses are available at each site before you visit.
“These vaccination centres are open to anyone eligible aged 18 and over. If you are unsure if you are eligible, then please come and speak to the team who will be happy to go through the eligibility criteria.
“As well as testing regularly and coming forward for vaccinations, it is also vitally important that the public continue to play their part by following the guidance on hands, face, space and fresh air while they enjoy the many freedoms we currently have,” appealed Dr. Karunanithi.