Respect call by council health chief as some residents remain cautious over coronavirus

People should continue to respect those who carry on wearing masks or asking for negative coronavirus tests before seeing others, East Riding Council’s public health boss has said.

By Joe Gerrard (Local Democracy Reporting Service)
Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 10:54 am
East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s public health director Andy Kingdom said that while significant improvements had been seen on the coronavirus front, the end was still not at hand.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s public health director Andy Kingdom said that while significant improvements had been seen on the coronavirus front, the end was still not at hand.

He added that while most people would now be fine to move back to normal behaviour some would still need to be cautious or may be nervous about rule scrapping.

It comes as 1,244 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the East Riding up in the week up to Sunday, February 20, down from 1,635 the previous week.

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The rolling infection rate fell from 476.4 to 362.5 cases per 100,000 people during the same period.

It also comes after legal requirements to self isolate after testing positive for coronavirus were scrapped on Thursday, February 24.

The moves come as part of the Government’s Living with Coronavirus strategy which has also seen financial support for those self-isolating withdrawn.

Mr Kingdom said case numbers in the East Riding had dropped significantly in recent weeks.

But he added official figures were likely under counting the true amount of cases as people test less regularly and the risk of a new variant still remained.

Mr Kingdom said: “We can see the light, we’re not out of the woods yet, we still have way to go.

“Whereas previously we were talking about about 2,500 new cases a week now it’s more like 1,200.

“But the issue is those figures are based on positive test results and much less people are testing now, so the actual number of cases is likely much higher.

“Estimates of the prevalence of coronavirus put the proportion of people with coronavirus at one in 35.

“And as people start to mix more and moving away from mask wearing and distancing, cases will rise again to begin with so we’ll be watching that.

“Having said that the evidence is clearly showing that case numbers are coming down.

“But despite the fact that hospital patient numbers are falling in other parts of the country, we haven’t seen that here yet, there was still 130 people in there at the end of last week.

“The number of patients in intensive care has dropped significantly since Christmas, but overall numbers of patients hasn’t although the severity of illness is much milder.

“If current trends continue hospital numbers should drop, it’s a question of time now and the East Riding tends to lag behind other areas as we’ve seen before.

“The issue with the lifting of restrictions is not so much the decision to do so but more the messaging around it.

“There’s a risk of giving people the impression that it’s all over, it isn’t.

“And the withdrawing of all coronavirus measures is going to be more gradual than it might have seemed.

“There’s things like free testing set to go in March and April depending on how things go, so it’s not like last Thursday was a Freedom Day entirely.

“Public health will continue to keep an eye out for any variants or other developments.

“In terms of our work its like a dimmer switch that’s been gradually turned down but we can turn it back up again easily if we have to.

“What we’re finding at the moment is that people are still being quite risk averse.

“The pandemic dramatically increased the risk to people, those risks are significantly less now because of the vaccine, people have a much lower chance of becoming seriously ill.

“But the level of risk is different for different people, the severity of someone’s baseline risk from catching an illness before coronavirus will determine how they behave now.

“It’s also influenced by the change in the public health approach from trying to tackle coronavirus in the population generally to a more targeted approach focusing on protecting the most vulnerable.

“But people see that and the end of remaining restrictions last week and they may feel nervous, so some will need some encouragement to come back into society as normal.

“For a large amount of the population, it’s now safe to live with coronavirus but that’s not true for everyone.

“We may have all gone through the storm together but we haven’t been in the same boat, for some people this has been very traumatic.

“So now for instance if your family was planning a big get together, for a lot of people that would be fine.

“But for some whose immunosurpressed or if they couldn’t have the vaccine they’d still be at risk, for people who haven’t been jabbed coronavirus is still as dangerous as it was when we had the original strain.

“So I’d ask people to just respect others if they want to continue wearing a mask or if they ask you to take a lateral flow test before meeting up.

“Things will start to come more and more in our favour now, as the weather improves people will start meeting outdoors more and the virus doesn’t thrive as much when its warmer.”