Freedom Day: COVID caution urged as Calderdale enters ‘unknown territory’
Public health chiefs are urging caution as more COVID restrictions are lifted from July 19 and Calderdale enters “unknown territory.”
Calderdale Council’s Director of Public Health, Deborah Harkins, told members of the council’s Adults, Health and Social Care Board although restrictions were ending, COVID would not and it was clear we are in a new wave of the virus, driven by the more transmissible Delta variant.
Between July 4 and 10, 815 residents of Calderdale had tested positive giving a rate of 385 per 100,000 people, an 18 per cent increase on the same day the previous week.
It was a higher peak than seen in January 2021, but not as high as November 2020 and the good news was the vaccination programme was reducing levels of hospitalisations and deaths, she said.
Ms Harkins said in January one in ten cases were resulting in hospital admissions and one in 60 people were dying. Now these figures were one in 60 being hospitalised and people dying in one in a 1,000 cases.
But she said: “We have never had case rates as high as we have now in Calderdale without having restrictions, so we are in unchartered territory.”
Coun Josh Fenton-Glynn (Lab, Calder), Cabinet member for Adults, Health and Social Care, said: “We are opening up but there remains a risk and we need to think about that as we begin opening up – a simple plea that there are still at-risk groups.
“There is also the risk of long COVID and we don’t know the long term impact.”
Ms Harkins said looking ahead, Public Health were expecting to see around 40 hospital admissions a week and two deaths a week, lower than last November, with Government expecting this wave to peak in late August or more likely early September.
Although hospitalisations were expected to be less, increased infections would put more pressure on the health service which was already under strain. “The peak will be lower if the return to behaviours before COVID is gradual – if it is very quick it will lead to a bigger peak,” she said.
Being careful will help the NHS and being kind and considerate would help people who were not as confident at the prospect of restrictions being lifted.
Coun Ann Kingstone (Lab, Skircoat) asked if a booster programme would be introduced and Ms Harkins said it was being looked at, including how it could be linked into the flu jab programme.
Coun Colin Hutchinson (Lab, Skircoat) asked what was being done to help people with poor immune systems live as normal a life as possible and Ms Harkins said people being considerate, for example, wearing masks as West Yorkshire Metro Mayor Tracy Brabin advocated for public transport, would help.
Responding to a question from Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town) , Ms Harkins said at the moment vaccination did not cover children but that might change over time if it could be shown to be safe and effective for them.
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