Scarborough 'likely to remain coronavirus area of concern for at least another week'
Scarborough is likely to remain as a coronavirus Area of Concern for at least another week, North Yorkshire’s director of public health has said.
Dr Lincoln Sargeant said that measures were being taken to address the spread of the virus but and it was “prudent” to keep an eye on the area for a while longer.
Scarborough was added to Public Health England’s watchlist last week after a spike in cases, particularly around Whitby and the north of the borough.
In response, a plea was made by the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum that face coverings should be worn at all times outside the house in order to limit the spread.
Speaking today, Dr Sargeant said he is currently “not convinced” a lockdown would be required in Scarborough and North Yorkshire but instead he would like to see an “interruption” to household gatherings through the rule of six.
He added that a lockdown would be a “last resort” if infections got out of control.
Dr Sargeant said that in the last seven days, Scarborough’s figures have fallen below the national and local average, with 19 cases in the week up to September 20 at a rate of 17.8 cases per 100,000. North Yorkshire’s average rate is 26 and England’s currently stands at 30.6.
However, he warned that when dealing with small numbers of people and infections it left areas like Scarborough open to spikes when compared to national trends.
He said: “When Selby and Scarborough were beginning to flag the national background rate was lower.
"Interestingly the national background rate is probably at the levels now that Scarborough was at when national scrutiny started to point at that district.
"So there is volatility in small numbers.”
Dr Sargeant said there was going to be a national change so that areas are added to watchlists based on their seven day average of infections rather than on relative trends.
He added: “In Scarborough and Selby I think the rates are coming down and they are on the watchlist whereas there are areas that are going up that are not just based on the [relative] statistics.
“It is likely Scarborough and Selby will remain on [as an Area of Concern] for at least another week and that is prudent I think to make sure the trends are indeed firm and they are actual stabilising and going down.”
Craven is likely to be added as an Area of Concern, he said.
Dr Sargeant also addressed theories that the rise in cases around Whitby and Scarborough was linked to tourists coming into the borough from places with higher infection rates.
He said: “It is difficult to say where did the original cases start in Whitby which is clearly a tourist area.
“You don’t have to assume it is tourism-related as there is enough background infection remaining.
"Remember it never ever went away, there is enough background infection in every community in the UK that can multiply if you give it the right catalysts.
“Clearly we know that Middlesbrough and parts of Teesside had their spike and it is interesting that there is a certain amount of cross border travel for work and other things between Teesside and Whitby and that could be a factor.”
He said the evidence pointed more towards the transmission of the virus between households rather than in the hospitality sector.
Dr Sargeant, speaking on a call with journalists, said that every week he is sent pictures of busy streets in Whitby and advised that this was why it was important people abided by the “Hands, Face, Space” message.