Health chief pleased with Covid cases drop but asks people to stick with wearing masks and social distancing to keep numbers down
East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Public Health Director Andy Kingdom said that while most people catching coronavirus were not becoming seriously ill, self-isolations were still putting sectors under pressure.
He added that while the situation could improve as spring comes, people should still stick to wearing masks and social distancing in the meantime to keep case numbers down.
It comes as 2,995 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the East Riding in the week up to Tuesday, February 1, down from 3,368 the previous week.
The infection rate in the East Riding fell from 981.3 to 872.7 cases per 100,000 people during the same period.
Mr Kingdom said while there had been improvements in recent weeks, they were not coming quickly enough.
He added the coming weeks and months would see moves towards living safely with Omicron and coronavirus, but restrictions would ease off rather than ending abruptly.
The director said: “To put it simply, we still have too many coronavirus cases.
“The numbers are coming down slowly and we’re seeing improvements but not as quickly as we’d like.
“We’re not seeing big outbreaks in schools and infections are slowly dropping among pupils, so that should mean cases will start to fall among their parents as well.
“But there’s still lots of problems in schools, particularly with teachers and staff having to self-isolate, we’ve even seen headteachers stepping in to take classes.
“In care homes there’s still quite a lot of infections, but we’re not seeing as many people ending up in hospital or dying as a result.
“We’re still seeing about 500 new infections a day, the amount of people in hospital is double what is was in December and although staff absences aren’t as bad there’s still pressure from some having to self-isolate.
“About 10 per cent of hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients but only a handful are having to go into intensive care.
“The problem generally is the amount of coronavirus cases still here, not how ill it’s making people, cases shot up quickly once Omicron took hold but they’re not coming down as quickly.”
Mr Kingdom said people in the East Riding still seemed to be holding out on wearing masks and social distancing and not many had rushed back to pre-pandemic behaviour.
He said: “It’s not the behaviour which damages social life and many things like wearing masks could carry on well into the future because they also help combat other illnesses like the flu too.
“The vaccines are still working really well too, but we need people’s behaviour to carry on for a bit longer to keep the numbers falling.
“A lot of people will have immunity from having caught coronavirus as well after the big spike in infections.
“Our vaccine rates are still among the highest in the country, people here and the vast majority of our health and social care staff have taken it up and they’ve done the right thing and I want to thank them for that.
“There’s a small number of health and social care staff who haven’t been vaccinated, I don’t see why, the vaccine’s worked so I don’t know why they can’t see that.
“We can’t mandate vaccines locally, that’s a Government decision, but I’d question the professional judgement of a health or social care worker who hasn’t had a vaccine.”
Mr Kingdom said that as restrictions eased, people would have to assess their own risks so they could live safely with coronavirus.
He said: “Things will improve as the weather gets better and as people start meeting up outdoors more.
“It’s about living safely with Omicron and coronavirus generally now, but each person’s approach will be different depending on their level of risk.
“The approach of an 80 year old with respiratory problems won’t be the same as a healthy person in their 20s who goes to the gym.
“Someone going to see their grandparent in a care home would want to test before and wear a mask, the risks are different than someone going to meet their 20-year-old mate down the pub.
“But we could still see cases rise again, we’re not expecting that in the East Riding because people’s behaviour really has changed, but if lots of people start mixing indoors for instance too quickly then it could.”