'Help us slow the Covid-19 spread' plea to Calderdale residents to avoid services 'grinding to a halt'

A plea has gone out for Calderdale residents to step up and help slow the spread of Covid-19.A plea has gone out for Calderdale residents to step up and help slow the spread of Covid-19.
A plea has gone out for Calderdale residents to step up and help slow the spread of Covid-19.
Record numbers of Covid-19 cases are putting Calderdale's hospitals, schools, care homes and council service under growing pressure - and infections are still soaring.

That is the warning from Calderdale Council's Leader Tim Swift and Director of Public Health, Debs Harkins, who say they need residents' help in slowing the spread of the virus.

The most recent figures available for the borough show 3,786 people tested positive in Calderdale in the week between December 26 and January 1 - a rate of 1,791 per 100,000.

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That is nearly three times the rate of cases seen at the peak of the previous wave of infections.

It is around the same figure as the national average, and means one in 15 people had Covid-19 during that week.

But Ms Harkins warned it will be an underestimate, as it only reflects the people who took PCR tests - and cases are still rising.

She said everyone will feel the impact.

"It's really serious," she warned.

The huge number of people testing positive and needing to self-isolate is putting a massive strain on the NHS, schools, care homes, council services, public transport and businesses.

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Hospital trusts in other parts of the country have had to declare critical incidents, trains and buses have been cancelled, bin collections missed, and head teachers across the UK have had to warn parents there may be some return to homelearning.

"It's inevitable that lots and lots of people are going to get Covid but we don't want everyone to get it at the same time and bring society grinding to a halt," said Ms Harkins.

"We need everyone to do what they can to slow the spread down."

When it comes to health services, she warned: "A large number of staff are going to be off. It's unlikely that this isn't going to impact on our ability to treat people."

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She said people may find themselves waiting longer for treatment or struggling to get through to their GPs.

While keeping children in school is a priority, she said classes may have to be merged and some pupils may have to temporarily homeschool again, as a last resort.

There are also serious concerns about outbreaks in care homes and the dangers faced by vulnerable people.

Omicron does seem to be causing less severe illness in people, she said, but it is not yet clear if that is a feature of the variant, vaccinations or the improved treatments now available.

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However, there has still been a rise in the number of people in hospital with Covid-19, and the Delta variant - which has previously required more people to need hospital care - is still circulating, accounting for around five per cent of cases in Calderdale.

She and Councillor Swift urged people to do what they can to help reduce the spread of the virus, such as washing their hands, wearing masks, prioritising social contacts and taking lateral flow tests before meeting up with others.

Getting vaccinated is vital, whether that is with a booster, or a first or second dose.

Councillor Swift added that working from home would also help, and businesses should be aware that if they did still have staff in their offices, they could be faced with having most of their workforce off sick if one of those workers caught Covid-19 and spread it to their colleagues.

Both said Calderdale people have proved previously how well they pull together in tough times like this.

"Every time we've asked people in Calderdale to assist us, they do," said Ms Harkins.