Explained: How the latest wave of coronavirus infections is spreading across Suffolk

Suffolk is continuing to see a sharp rise in coronavirus cases according to the latest weekly figures, with the number of positive tests tripling in seven days.

The current county-wide infection rate, published on Wednesday evening, indicates that around 32 cases are being detected per 100,000 people.

This is similar to levels seen in mid-April.

There were 241 positive cases recorded in the week to Sunday, October 4.

This is more than triple the 64 cases reported the previous week, when the infection rate was a much lower 8.4 per 100,000 people.

According to the county’s public health team, there are a mixture of factors responsible for this rise.

The first, the Public Health England data error which occurred over the weekend and saw 16,000 cases missed off national tallies, has inflated figures for Saturday and Sunday (October 3 and 4).

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That said, the majority of these additional cases in Suffolk tested positive in the past week, meaning that the latest figures do show a true rise in the county.

Cases are rising in East Suffolk (with 85 positive tests in the past week, up from 25) and West Suffolk (which had 65, up from 16) in particular, according to public health director Stuart Keeble.

In the east, there has been an outbreak which has seen 53 workers test positive at the Bernard Matthews factory in Holton, near Halesworth.

In the west, there are six care home outbreaks, with cases mostly linked to staff, who are tested weekly.

Elsewhere, positive cases are mainly being linked to workplaces, care homes and schools.

Infections in older age groups remain low while more younger people are testing positive, bosses said.

Even with the recent increase, Suffolk’s figures remain among the lowest in the country.

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Every single Suffolk district is ranked in the bottom 100 authorities in England (out of 314) with the lowest infection rates, and it is the same story in north Essex.

Clusters of cases have popped up on the Government’s postcode-level map, which is divided into neighbourhoods containing 7,200 people.

Eight cases were recorded in the Red Lodge, Icklingham and Moulton area while another eight were logged in Bixley, Warren Heath and Nacton in the week to Saturday, October 3.

Sudbury and South Newmarket & Racecourse also recorded six cases in that time.

Although clusters are evident, the postcode map for many other authorities is a sea of dark blue (higher numbers of cases); while most of Norfolk, Suffolk and north Essex remain a shade of light blue or grey.

To put the figures into context, there have been 867 new cases in Knowsley, near Merseyside, in the past week, England’s worst-hit area. Its infection rate is 574.7 cases per 100,000 people.

• Have hospital admissions increased?

So far, an increase in cases across Suffolk has not translated into a rapid increase in hospital admissions.

Numbers are much lower than they were at the start of the first wave, with just two patients being treated at Ipswich Hospital, and six at Colchester in the week to October 4.

Of those, four cases were confirmed within the past week.

One positive patient and eight suspected cases are currently at West Suffolk Hospital.

At the peak, 33 patients were in intensive care at Ipswich and Colchester, with 114 positive patients being treated across other wards.

The last death from coronavirus across Ipswich and Colchester hospitals was in July.

West Suffolk Hospital has recorded four Covid-19 fatalities in the last three months, with the most recent on October 2.

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However, Mr Keeble warned against complacency, and confirmed that cases are rising in line with the national picture, with officials monitoring the spread across the county every day.

He said: “This is a stark reminder that Covid-19 is in our communities, and we all have a responsibility to each other.”

Latest figures for Suffolk’s care homes show six reported new outbreaks in the week to September 28, all in the west.

There have been two recent Covid deaths in the county’s care homes, according to the Care Quality Commission, one on September 21 and another on September 27. It brings the total since the pandemic began to 197 deaths.

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Across the east, which covers Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, there were 193 people admitted to hospitals with Covid-19 in the two weeks to October 4. That is up from 91 the previous fortnight.

In the six weeks to September 25, there were five Covid-19 deaths registered in Suffolk, according to the ONS. Four were in hospitals, and one was in a care home.

It remains to be seen whether cases identified in the past week will translate into hospital admissions.

Nationally, there were 70 deaths recorded in UK hospitals as of 4pm on Wednesday.

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