Indian variant Covid cases in Norfolk 'cause to be cautious'

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk's director of public health. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

The number of Norfolk coronavirus cases caused by the Indian variant remains fewer than 10 - but public health bosses have said that is "cause to be cautious".

And Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk County Council's public health director, said she is keen that vaccination supplies are not diverted from Norfolk, in favour of people in parts of the country where the variant is more widespread.

There are now more than 2,300 cases of the Indian variant in England, with particularly high cases in the north west, including Bolton and Blackburn, along with Bedford and London.

Norfolk has fewer than 10 and Dr Smith said: "If you look at places like Bolton, Blackburn and Bedford, we are not seeing the increases in overall cases and in the Indian variant cases that they are seeing.

"We have small numbers, but I am at a point where I cannot link them to a specific location.

"We have a range of employment and range of districts - there have been cases in a least four of Norfolk's districts.

"We are seeing household spread and a range of different routes of introduction into those households."

She said the key issue for Public Health was in understanding how transmission has happened.

She said: "If we have people who have known travel histories or who share a household with someone who has, then that is much more reassuring that we have identified the cases and are able to link them.

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"But we are not at a stage where we are 100pc sure we can do that in every case.

"When you look at other areas and see the numbers rise that does give us cause to be very cautious.

"If I can get one key message across, it is that if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, you should self-isolate and book a PCR test."

Dr Smith also urged people of eligible age for coronavirus vaccinations to make sure they get them - and for people who have had one dose to not forget to get their second one.

Nurse Maria Alexiou preparing a Covid-19 vaccination at the new mass vaccination centre at Connaught

The rise of the Indian variant has prompted fresh calls for eligible people in Norfolk to get their vaccinations - Credit: Danielle Booden

Surge testing has been done in Bolton and Blackburn, while health secretary Matt Hancock has said Bedford will follow.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock giving a statement to MPs in the House of Commons.

Health secretary Matt Hancock. - Credit: PA

People queue for the vaccination centre at the Essa Academy in Bolton. The Indian coronavirus varian

People in Bolton queue for coronavirus vaccinations. - Credit: PA

But Dr Smith said she had concerns on the impact on Norfolk were vaccines to be diverted elsewhere.

She said: "We have got mixed views about the national surge vaccination approach.

"There has been a discussion for some time about whether areas that have high levels of coronavirus should be prioritised for vaccinations.

"Norfolk would not fall into that group. But I am very aware that many people in Norfolk are vulnerable and that the consistent determinant in the severity of Covid-19 is age.

"I would say I remain a supporter of the approach taken so far, which is to prioritise by age group - to prioritise those who would be most ill."

She urged people to get tested twice weekly, to keep wearing face masks and to observe social distancing.

She said: "This variant is a timely reminder that, while we can do more now and there are fewer restrictions, the virus is still very much around.

"We want to keep going and getting people vaccinated as fast as we can."

Dr Smith said, now restrictions have been eased, people should weigh up the risks to themselves and others over what they do.

A spokesperson for NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “We continue to urge everyone who is eligible for a vaccine to take it when they are offered it and join the 71pc of adults in Norfolk and Waveney who have had their jab.

60pc of the adult population in Norfolk and Waveney have received their first dose of the coronaviru

71pc of adults in Norfolk and Waveney have had a Covid-19 jab. - Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

"Second doses are equally important, so please don’t delay when you’re invited for an appointment as you need both doses for the highest levels of protection.”

Amid complaints that people are having to drive some distance from where they live to get jabs, the CCG said vaccination centres have always flexed the number of appointments offered in line with supply.

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