Explained: Why is extra Covid support coming to Suffolk?

The coronavirus infection rate in Ipswich and West Suffolk has risen Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk is to be made a Covid Enhanced Response Area - but what does it mean for the county? - Credit: Archant

Suffolk is to be made an Enhanced Response Area to tackle high coronavirus rates after being requested by the county's public health leaders — here's everything you need to know.

What is an Enhanced Response Area?

An area of England can be made an Enhanced Response Area (ERA) for a five-week period, meaning specialist support teams will be deployed.

These teams would support work around vaccinations, outbreaks and communications, with more volunteers being recruited, enhanced measures in schools and a focus on surge testing.

Doctore Parikh with the Pfizer vaccine Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Support teams will help the coronavirus vaccination programme in Suffolk - Credit: Charlotte Bond

It also allows for the fast-tracking of decisions to central government.

What is the infection rate in Suffolk?

Suffolk's seven-day infection rate is above the average for England at 528.3 cases per 100,000 people, according to data for the week up to October 27.

Ipswich — which recently had England's highest rate — remains the Covid hotspot in the county with an infection rate of 730.3.

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There have been almost 4,000 new infections reported in Suffolk in the last week.

How are our hospitals coping?

Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals have all temporarily suspended visits except in exceptional circumstances as they have seen a rise in Covid patients.

Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have no front line staff refusing to have a Covid vaccine.

Suffolk's hospitals have reported a rise in Covid patients in recent weeks - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which manages Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, and West Suffolk Hospital were treating 117 patients between them on October 26 — an increase of about a third in a week.

However, these figures remain far below the peak of mid-January, when there were more than 700 patients being treated at the region's hospitals.

What is the situation in schools?

Dozens of Suffolk schools have seen children miss school since the start of September, with about 7,500 students off since the start of the term.

Public Health Suffolk has recently revealed 36 schools in the county had experienced 50 or more cases, while another 10-15 schools had more than 100 since the start of September.

Some students throughout the county have had to start wearing face masks at school again

The vaccination rate for 12 to 15-year-olds is almost 10% lower than the national average in areas of Suffolk - Credit: PA

Prior to the half-term break, a number of schools had brought back measures such as face masks and social distancing in a bid to bring down infection rates.

How many people are dying in care homes?

There have been three Covid-related deaths in Suffolk's care homes so far in October, with another three in September.

But no deaths were reported in July and August, with only one in June.

Who made the decision to make Suffolk an ERA?

The final decision was made by the UK Health Security Agency and the government, but it came at the request of the local outbreak engagement board.

The request was supported by a number of political figures, including Suffolk MPs Tom Hunt and Dr Dan Poulter.