Calderdale health chief warns of 'frightening' rise in cases across the borough

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Calderdale's health chief says the district is on the same trajectory as the areas of the country where coronavirus is surging out of control after several days of “frightening increases” in the number of cases.

Deborah Harkins, Director of Public Health for Calderdale, said people in the district and across Yorkshire needed to be even more strict than they were last spring about “hands, face, space” habits to limit the spread of Covid-19 because of the dangerous new variant.

Rates across Yorkshire’s local authorities are still some way below those in London and the South East where a major incident has been declared but Ms Harkins said the situation was “deteriorating really quickly”.

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She said that while case numbers in Calderdale had increased 63 per cent in a week, other parts of the country had seen their rates triple in the same period.

Deborah Harkins, Director of Public Health for CalderdaleDeborah Harkins, Director of Public Health for Calderdale
Deborah Harkins, Director of Public Health for Calderdale

She added: “If we all really make a superhuman effort there is still time for us to prevent us getting into the same situation as we’re seeing in some other parts of the country.

“We are on that same trajectory but earlier in the curve. This new variant, because it spreads so much more easily than the previous variant, if we all think back to what we were doing in the spring we need to do a bit more than that because of the new variant.

“It’s easy in West Yorkshire and in Calderdale particularly to think, ‘We’ve got some of the lowest rates in the country, that’s brilliant’ but actually we’re on that same trajectory.

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“And if we do get complacent in any way, I’m afraid we will see in Calderdale what we’re seeing in some other parts of the country.”

Her message was echoed by West Yorkshire Prepared, the region’s Local Resilience Forum, which met on Thursday in light of increasing Covid-19 rates across the region and the presence of the new variant in local communities.

Robin Tuddenham, co-chair of West Yorkshire Prepared and Chief Executive of Calderdale Council, said: “It is a very serious and stark situation. At the moment we have a very small window of time in which to take action – so it is imperative that we act now.”

National restrictions introduced on January 5 as part of the third lockdown require everyone to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. This means people should work from home if they can and only leave the house or garden for essential reasons.

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There were 16,555 coronavirus cases recorded in Yorkshire and the Humber in the seven days to January 2, the latest available figures, and of those cases 27 per cent were estimated to be genetically compatible with the new variant.

The reproductive rate – the R rate – of the virus is now thought to be between one and 1.4. The R refers to the number of people an infected person will pass the virus to.

And it emerged yesterday that more than half of all major hospital trusts in England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave of the virus.

In the North most trusts are still below their first-wave peak, however. An exception was Hull University Teaching Hospitals, where the number stood at 208 on January 5, compared with a first-wave peak of 112.