Hospital Covid outbreak a 'wake-up call' for continuing social distancing, Suffolk leaders warn

Ipswich Town Centre shoppers wearing masks Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Social distancing, face masks and regular hand washing were still needed to combat the spread of Covid-19 in Suffolk - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The recent Covid-19 outbreak at Ipswich Hospital must be "a wake-up call" for people to continue observing social distancing, health leaders have warned.

Ipswich Hospital last week confirmed an outbreak of the virus a fortnight ago saw cases among inpatients climb from three to 29 in just 48 hours, and hit 54 at its peak.

Those numbers have since come down and no patients were in intensive care, but the hospital took swift action to instigate an independent review of practices. That has resulted in strict daily audits taking place to ensure guidelines over facemasks and social distancing are being upheld.

The intensive care units at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have been full since before New Year due to the pressure from...

Ipswich Hospital confirmed Covid-19 case numbers were coming down after an outbreak earlier this month - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Health and council leaders told Friday's Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting that it must be a wake-up call that social distancing was still as important as ever.

Public Health Suffolk director Stuart Keeble said: "The key point I would to take from this is the speed at which this still moves.

"This isn't just about hospitals, it's about everywhere. It's a reminder I think of where the virus is now."

He continued: "The vaccinations will do the heavy lifting [in offering protection] but actually it's still there, and even if you have had a vaccination, that will provide some protection but you can still get it and still spread it."

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Public Health Suffolk director Stuart Keeble said people still needed to observe social distancing regardless of whether they had been given a Covid-19 jab - Credit: Suffolk County Council

The meeting heard that there had been a degree of "vaccine complacency" where some who have had one or both jabs have felt they no longer need to follow rules around social distancing, face mask use and handwashing. 

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However, while significant portions of the population are still waiting for a vaccine those rules are still required to prevent people from catching the virus and falling ill.

Suffolk County Council leader and outbreak board chairman Matthew Hicks said: "It's a very strong message, and what we are hearing is a wake-up call.

Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council leader, said modern slavery affected Suffolk Picture: SARAH L

Suffolk Local Outbreak Engagement Board chairman Matthew Hicks said the Ipswich Hospital Covid outbreak must be a 'wake-up call'

"The vaccinations have given people this great feeling of comfort but that doesn't stop us from still needing to observe the same rules we have have been talking about for over a year."

Current guidance requests people to wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, wear facemasks in indoor spaces where social distancing may be tricky and stay two metres apart from people you do not live with.