Suffolk in 'strong position' to exit enhanced Covid measures
- Credit: SCC/Sarah Lucy Brown
Health leaders are feeling confident about Suffolk's exit from additional Covid support following falling rates of infections.
On November 1, Suffolk was made an Enhanced Response Area (ERA) for a five-week period, meaning specialist support teams were deployed to reduce the level of Covid in the county.
These teams have been supporting work around vaccinations, outbreaks and communications, with a particular focus on Ipswich.
At the start of the month, Suffolk's seven-day infection rate per 100,000 people was 415, dropping to 312 by November 8, but rising to 371.9 by November 17 - the latest data.
Ipswich specifically has gone from a rate of 522 to 338 per 100,000 people.
Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's director of public health, believes the county is in a "strong position" to exit ERA - but will be led by the data.
He said: "There has been lots of activity in the first three weeks, including county-wide communication and an extensive surge vaccination programme in Ipswich. This activity will continue for the next two weeks. We don’t expect to see an impact immediately, but rates continue to drop in Ipswich where a lot of the focus has been.
"We have sent out a county-wide advice leaflet and will continue with surge vaccinations in Ipswich for four consecutive weekends. Discussions are taking place about where else surge vaccinations should be offered. There has also been a Government Advan, with Covid safety messages, driving around Ipswich, Bury, Lowestoft and Newmarket."
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Residents are being encouraged to: get fully vaccinated, wash hands regularly, wear face coverings in busy areas, ventilate indoor spaces and get tested regularly.
Virologist Dr Stathis Giotis, from the University of Essex, believes the recent rise of COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths shows there is no room for complacency and some rules should have been introduced earlier this autumn.
He said: "The UK should re-introduce reasonable and proportional measures such as enforced mask wearing in enclosed and crowded areas including public transport, encourage once again remote working, adopt a better communication strategy designed to ramp up booster vaccinations," he said.
"It is unlikely we are heading for another full-lockdown. However, these decisions will be made based on evolving epidemiological data.
"Rapid re-implementation of COVID mitigation measures will reduce the need for more severe measures later."