Cause for optimism in Norfolk as Delta variant Covid cases remain low

Cases of the coronavirus Delta variant remain low in Norfolk

Cases of the coronavirus Delta variant remain low in Norfolk - Credit: Archant

Delta variant Covid cases remain sparse in Norfolk compared to much of the country, while two of the county's hospitals have not admitted a single patient with the virus since last month. 

New data provides cause for optimism amid fears of a third wave brought about by the more transmissible strain. 

Latest figures show that, in the seven days up to June 12, Norfolk had just 50 Delta cases.

More than half were in the districts of Broadland and West Norfolk, which had 13 each. 

It means Delta cases made up 52pc of all infections in West Norfolk, compared to 29pc a week prior. 

But case numbers fell in North Norfolk and Great Yarmouth, and remained the same in Norwich and South Norfolk. 

North Norfolk had just one Delta case (8pc of all cases) and Great Yarmouth only three (33pc). 

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Infections are, however, plainly on the rise, given there were just six cases detected in the county in the week up to May 22. 

In the seven days up to May 29 there were 15 and, up to June 5, the total almost tripled to 41. 

And yet the county's favourable position is clear when compared to England's worst-hit areas, the vast majority of which have been in the north west. 

Manchester registered a national high of 634 Delta cases in the seven days up to June 12.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and an expert in emerging infectious diseases, said it was no surprise to see Norfolk in a promising place.

“You can assume almost every single new case we are getting in Norfolk at the moment is the Delta variant," added Prof Hunter.

“Looking at the data, there has actually been very little change in recent weeks. We still have one of the lowest incidence rates in the country. 

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia (UEA) - Credit: Archant © 2013

“Norfolk has pretty much always been better off than the rest of the UK. 

"We have had hotspots, like parts of Great Yarmouth, and a number of food factory outbreaks, so we have certainly not escaped it. But we've had far fewer cases and, to a large extent, it is to do with our demographic. 

“We are reasonably affluent and have relatively low poverty rates compared to other places. And of course, we are a long way from areas which have seen high case rates."

Recent data showed the Delta variant - originating in India - was most dominant in the Wyre district of Lancashire, near Blackpool, where 70 of 97 cases (72pc) were Delta.

Nurse Maria Alexiou preparing COVID vaccinations at the new mass vaccination centre at Connaught Hal

The progress of the Covid vaccine rollout has helped offset the spread of the Delta variant - Credit: Danielle Booden

Bolton has had 3,974 Indian variant cases since it arrived in the UK, by far the most in the country.

Since mid-April, Bedford has recorded the highest proportion of Delta infections, with 66pc of its total cases. 

Government fears over the spread of the Delta strain have mostly been driven by a desire to protect the NHS.

There are concerns its higher transmissibility could lead to hospitals becoming overwhelmed.

But the picture in Norfolk as it stands could hardly be more encouraging in the context of the pandemic. 

Throughout June, no-one suffering with Covid has been admitted to either the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) or James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston. 

Just four people have been admitted to Queen Elizabeth Elizbeth (QEH) in King's Lynn this month. 

As of June 15 there were three hospital beds occupied by coronavirus patients at QEH, but none at the county's other hospitals. 

Just one person was in critical care with the virus, again at QEH. 

Staggeringly, there has not been a Covid-related death at the NNUH since April 21 - more than two months ago. 

The most recent death was at JPUH on June 2. 

Prof Hunter said he was "optimistic" England's rescheduled 'Freedom Day', deferred to July 19, would go ahead.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

There is hope Boris Johnson and his government will stick to the revised 'Freedom Day' date of July 19 - Credit: Paul Ellis/PA Wire

He said: "Across England, more than 98pc of people over 60 have antibodies to Covid and therefore have some degree of protection. Even for young adults aged 16 to 24, it is 56pc.  

“We are well on the way to achieving a protection that, in my view, will get us through the coming months.  

“Although case numbers are going up, the rate increase seems to have slowed. 

“I am confident we will see an end to restrictions on July 19, and I would not lose any sleep if it was brought forward."

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