Health chief raises concerns over South Derbyshire's high Covid-19 infection rate: Says there is a connection with North West Leicestershire

By Graham Hill

11th Mar 2021 | Local News

The high rate of Covid-19 infections in South Derbyshire is causing concern for the county's public health chief, with many reasons said to be causing the continued spread.

Dean Wallace, director of public health for Derbyshire County Council, said that there was no one single cause for the higher rate in the district.

He detailed that the higher rate, leaving the district with one of the highest in England, is linked to – among many other things – the area's high manufacturing economy, with employees at work during lockdown, often unable to socially distance and potentially using public transport regularly.

On top of this is travel into and out of neighbouring North West Leicestershire, which also has a higher rate linked to manufacturing employment.

This week, Ashby was highlighted as being a Covid 'hotspot' Ashby Covid rates are creeping up according to health chiefs while residents in areas of Coalville have been offered extra lateral flow testing facilities.

Further issues include household-to-household mixing, informal social contact (such as at the park or in the supermarket), early years education settings which remained open during lockdown and also care home and healthcare workplaces.

Mr Wallace stressed that there was a risk that the virus would become ingrained and endemic in communities such as South Derbyshire if it does not get a handle on its infection rate – meaning the illness would be here for good, on some level.

He urged residents to wear face coverings when required and in enclosed spaces, practice good hand hygiene and to socially distance whenever possible.

This includes at school drop-off and pick-up where many households will overlap.

South Derbyshire had an infection rate of 136 cases per 100,000 for the week to March 6, above a national rate of 50 over the same time period.

Mr Wallace told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "South Derbyshire is the real issue for us because that spread is much more community-led.

"That is just endemic community transmission that is falling more slowly across a range of different local communities, linked in to various settings.

"There is some level of informal social contact, there are then some links to small clusters in specific settings, but with that you aren't sure how much the setting contributes to that or how much comes in from the community.

"It is not linked to any particular community or middle super output area (hyper-local area, such as Swadlincote Central), it is just a general, higher level of transmission that has never fallen the same and has plateaued higher.

"Equally, in North West Leicestershire, which also has higher rates, there are certain links in and out of that geography in terms of commuters.

"We know South Derbyshire has quite a lot of manufacturing and the nature of that type of business, we know, has been a problem in terms of enduring transmission of Covid and equally, South Derbyshire also has links into Derby City, which has high rates.

"So there are links to the types of business operations in the area where more people are at greater risk in terms of close contact.

"There is evidence of some household to household transmission, some early years settings which stayed open during lockdown some linked to care homes and healthcare settings.

"It is really complex and that's what makes it difficult when you are trying to bring it down."

He urged people to continue following "hands, face, space" despite frustrations with continued lockdown and infection prevention measures.

Mr Wallace said: "I realise people are fatigued, but those measures need to be done in a much more stringent way than we could have got away with before, especially in terms of the new variant

"Also, because we are vaccinating at quite a rate people feel "oh, job's done" well, the vaccine is not fully effective until we have two doses, for people who have a single dose it takes up to 21 days to have the full immune response, so we still need people who have had the vaccine to continue to do all of those things.

"Because of schools going back, South Derbyshire has higher risk of that engendering further community transmission than other districts in Derbyshire.

"So it is really important that anyone with children access lateral flow testing to try and make that safer and that in and out of school gates, bubbles are maintained, there is social distancing and face coverings.

"It is doing that all the time, religiously. We need people to still treat it as if everybody outside of your household has Covid, until we get the vaccine out to the whole population."


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