‘Likely’ that parts of Suffolk will be hit by second coronavirus spike this winter
- Credit: Archant
A second wave of coronavirus is “likely” to hit parts of Suffolk this winter and could even lead to local lockdowns if serious, it has been warned.
Currently, infection rates across the county remain among the lowest in the country - in the seven days to Sunday, August 16, 23 people tested positive for the virus, down from 31 the previous week.
But experts fear Covid-19 could spread rapidly when the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors. Public health chiefs at Suffolk County Council say they are busy preparing for an anticipated spike during the winter months.
Central Suffolk and north Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, who sits on the cross-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, believes the anticipated second wave could hit as early as October - but thinks it is unlikely we will go back into national lockdown.
“It’s not a question of when there’s going to be a second wave but how severe it is going to be, and flattening it as much as we can so it doesn’t take off as much as the first one did,” he said.
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“In my view, it could arrive as soon as October.
“We’ve got to be realistic that there’s likely to be at some point during this winter, parts of Suffolk, the east of England, where there may be strict local lockdowns for a period of three or four weeks, if there is a spike in cases.”
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Dr Poulter, who is also an NHS doctor, said he feels urban centres like Ipswich, Stowmarket, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft would be more likely to face local lockdown restrictions than rural areas, where people live much further apart.
Stuart Keeble, Suffolk’s public health director, feels “it’s very likely” we will see a rise in cases during winter, adding that it remains to be seen how Covid-19 may interact with other seasonal illnesses like flu.
With the NHS already under pressure with routine operations facing a huge backlog and cancer treatment facing delays, Dr Poulter also warned a second wave could bring about a higher toll of winter deaths.
“We know Covid kills one in 100 people, it’s about 10 times more deadly than flu,” he said.
“Covid itself is going to potentially be a killer this winter, but on top of that, we’ve also got the additional challenge that a lot of the activity in the NHS has been diverted.
“People who have long-standing heart problems, and people who may need urgent investigation for cancer, are not necessarily being treated or investigated in the same timely manner.”
Such delays in treatment could lead to long-term survival rates for some cancers falling, Dr Poulter added.
Suffolk patients are currently enduring some of the longest waiting times for GPs in the country with more than half waiting over 18 weeks to be seen. And hundreds of patients are having to wait more than a year for routine surgery as hospitals tackle a backlog.
While planning continues for a second wave, currently, numbers of coronavirus infections in Suffolk remain low. Public Health England figures out on Friday reveal there were 23 positive tests in the county in the seven days to August 16.
This has fallen from 31 the previous week and gives an approximate rate of 2.8 Covid-19 infections per 100,000 people (down from 3.6).
To put these figures into context, Oldham had 197 cases in that same time frame, and was the worst-affected area of England with 83.2 infections per 100,000 people.
Despite the lower numbers in Suffolk, Mr Keeble has warned people “cannot be complacent”.
His team is currently recruiting more contact tracers for the county’s own test-and-trace system, which is being rolled out in a bid to reach more contacts locally. It is working alongside the national NHS scheme. “The virus is still out there, we are seeing new cases and anyone can become infected,” Mr Keeble added.
“But we can continue to stop it spreading if we keep washing hands regularly, keep social distancing, wear a face covering when required and get tested if you feel unwell.”