How the number of Covid patient in our hospitals fell from 700 to 46
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
At the peak of the second wave there were 700 people with Covid being treated at our three main hospitals, with 90 new patients admitted in one day alone - but what does the picture look like now?
Today, as the stay at home order is lifted and we are granted more freedom on the roadmap to easing lockdown, we look at public health data to see how much has changed since the peak in mid-January, while MP Dr Dan Poulter urges us to continue to follow the rules, saying: It's not over yet."
On January 18, less than a month after Suffolk entered Tier 4 and just over a fortnight after the Government announced the third national lockdown, there were more than 700 patients being treated for Covid at the region’s three main hospitals.
Bed numbers peaked at 550 across Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, with 187 at West Suffolk, and critical care departments had to double capacity as the virus left many seriously ill and on ventilators.
Now, the picture could not be more different.
As of last Tuesday, there were 44 Covid patients in beds across Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, down 92% from January’s peak of 550, while there were two at West Suffolk, down almost 100% from 187 on January 14.
Daily admissions are now down to single figures across all three hospitals, with nine Covid patients admitted on March 21 - down from 90 in a single day on January 9.
The herculean vaccination effort by the NHS meant Suffolk and north east Essex quickly turned around a low ranking of older people vaccinated into success, and this week one local authority in our area placed first in the national tables with 64% of over-16s jabbed with their first dose.
In addition, 97% of older people in the region have received at least their first dose and have moved onto their second.
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And with the national effort ensuring almost all of the eight most vulnerable groups have received their first shot in the arm, the focus is now expected to shift from infection numbers to whether those cases are translating into hospital admissions and deaths.
Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and north Ipswich, sits on Parliament's cross-party Covid group and says that as more people get vaccinated, the better we can control the spread of the virus.
“As we move into the spring and summer months, it is likely that the key metric that drives the lifting of lockdown restrictions will be the number of hospitalisations, rather than simply the number of people who are infected with the virus,” he explained.
“While vaccination does not completely stop people from contracting and spreading Covid, it significantly reduces the risk of more serious infection, hospitalisation and death.
But he added: “The likely emergence of new strains will mean that older and more vulnerable groups, as well as NHS staff, will need to have annual boosters of the Covid vaccine in a similar way to annual flu inoculation.”
School reopening on March 8 marked the first careful emergence from lockdown three weeks ago and some neighbourhoods have seen increases in infection rates from boosted testing.
The Ipswich area of Gainsborough, Greenwich and Orwell now has the fifth-highest coronavirus infection rate in the country of 503 cases per 100,000, with 44 infections identified in the week to March 22.
Public health chiefs in Suffolk put this down to a rise in testing in the area and it is understood a handful of schools have identified cases hence boosted testing and higher numbers of infections.
In the same set of Government data, which breaks down the region into postcode areas with populations of around 8,200 people called MSOAs, a total of 86 neighbourhoods recorded next to no Covid cases in the week to March 22, recording less than three infections.
However, spikes like those in parts of Ipswich and plateauing infections elsewhere have sounded a warning for emerging from lockdown with community leaders urging people not to be complacent as the world re-opens again.
Martin Cook, ward councillor for the Gainsborough area of Ipswich said it was important to recognise not everybody has been vaccinated yet, particularly in urban areas with significantly younger populations.
He warned people not to let their guards down, and added: "I think it is very important that we all keep following the rules.”
Dr Poulter added that people in Suffolk "continue to recognise this is not over yet".