Rise in young people infected with coronavirus in Suffolk

Inset: Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's public health director, who says his team are seeing more young peop

Inset: Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's public health director, who says his team are seeing more young people infected with Covid-19, compared with other age groups. Woodbridge shoppers wear their masks in public (stock photo) Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND/SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND/SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

More young people are becoming infected with Covid-19 in Suffolk compared with other age groups, the county’s public health boss has said.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health at Suffolk County Council, said his team are seeing an increase in the number of young people, proportionally compared to other groups, contracting Covid-19.

But the county, which is continuing to record very low numbers of cases compared with other areas of England, is not seeing many instances where the virus has spread from person-to-person or within families.

Many of the county’s positive cases, of which there were 23 in the last seven days (up to August 29), are “isolated” and not the result of transmission between household or family groups, Mr Keeble added.

“We’re not having large spreads of say 10 people in the same house (e.g. in a house of multiple occupation) – we’re not seeing that kind of spread at the moment,” he said.

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“It’s different across the country. In the north west, you’re very much seeing inter-generational spread, often from some of the younger age group, socialising more and coming back into the family home.

“We’re not seeing that at the moment. We are seeing an increase in the number of younger people, proportionally younger people who are infected, but we are in no way seeing huge amounts of spread, person to person, within households.”

MORE: Latest coronavirus infection rates show slight rise in cases – check the numbers in your areaSuffolk has also not recorded many ‘outbreaks’ of the virus recently, where Covid-19 spreads between people. For example, a school pupil who tested positive but self-isolated would not equate to an outbreak, but transmission between a pupil and a teacher would.

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But Mr Keeble said dwindling numbers of outbreaks does not mean we can be complacent – on the contrary, teams are continuing to meet three times a day to spot spikes in data and bolstering the county’s local outbreak plan to cover every eventuality.

From schools and care homes to rough sleepers and the migrant community, each setting and group has a team appointed to give advice, spot signs of an spike and take action if necessary.

MORE: ‘Likely’ that parts of Suffolk will be hit by second coronavirus spike this winterAt the moment, Mr Keeble said numbers are low enough in Suffolk that teams are able to “hunt down the virus” and spot links between cases.

This means they would not be “taken by surprise” by a local lockdown, he added.

“We are watching the figures every day, down to postcode level about what’s happening. It depends what those outbreaks might be,” he said.

“If we had an outbreak in a school, we would be managing that locally. If we then started to see the cases starting to increase, if it was in a very localised area (i.e. one postcode), it wouldn’t be lockdown first, it would be messaging around what people need to do, increasing the level of testing in that area, even putting messages through people’s doors.

MORE: How Suffolk’s new test-and-trace system will work <please add link>

“That would be the first step – we wouldn’t go straight to lockdown. We then need to see if those (initial actions) are having an impact over time.”

Over the past two months, Mr Keeble’s team has been helping to establish a system which allows an instant response if and when an outbreak is announced.

The council’s new community intervention team now knows exactly who to call when trying to contact more at-risk groups such as rough sleepers, the migrant community, older people and those in temporary accommodation.

It means that should a large-scale outbreak in a factory or a few person-to-person cases in a school be identified, everyone knows their role and people are unlikely to be caught off-guard.

MORE: Explained – How Suffolk would tackle a Covid-19 outbreak at work <please add link>

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