Health bosses believe Lincolnshire is already in a much better position than the government’s tier 3 ranking would suggest.
It was confirmed on Thursday that all of Greater Lincolnshire, including North and North East Lincolnshire, would be put into the toughest COVID restrictions (tier 3) when the current lockdown ends on December 2. Here’s what it means.
Lincolnshire County Council’s director of public health Professor Derek Ward said the government had used data from the peak of the county’s coronavirus infection between November 17-19 to make its decision, but that the latest figures already showed a massive improvement.
Professor Ward said people followed the rules, despite the peak in cases in the middle of November.
The government uses five key indicators make its decision and Professor Ward was confident the downward trend would continue.
Case detection rates in all age groups
Up to November 24, Lincolnshire’s infection rate was 232, compared to the England average of 209, said Professor Derek Ward.
Between November 17-19, the infection rate peaked at 308 — a difference of 76.
This is the figure that has been used the longest in determining the rate of coronavirus spread.
To improve this, Professor Ward said the usual messages of hands, face and space applied.
“It’s about trying to make sure people don’t catch COVID in the first place,” he said.
“So make sure you wash your hands for 20 seconds, make sure if you’re going into an enclosed space, or indeed, if you feel you’re walking through a busy street, that you’re covering the face, and keep at least two metres at all times from anybody outside your household.”
Case detection rates in the over 60s
For this more specific number, the current figure is 326 per 100,000 population, up from 281 in mid-November.
“The reason that’s important is because we know this is a disease that targets older people,” said Professor Ward.
“Older people are more likely to have a more severe form of the disease and they are therefore more likely to need NHS or hospital treatment, and more likely to die from it.”
In addition to hands, face and space, the key thing was for anyone who has symptoms to get a test “immediately”.
He said anecdotal evidence showed younger people might not get tested despite mild symptoms, but were then visiting relatives and possibly passing it on.
“Anybody who has any symptoms, no matter how mild, you must immediately isolate, don’t go for one last shop, don’t go for one last visit to your mum or dad.
“You can do a lot of stuff remotely, you can do it online, you can book shopping.
“There’s also support out there for anyone struggling,” he said.
The rate at which cases are rising or falling
This is a new indicator and health bosses did not have specific information to compare with government, however, Professor Ward said “overall our rates are clearly reducing.”
“‘It’s more a direction of travel than an actual figure,” said Professor Ward.
“Between November 17-19 we had the highest rates, and it’s been on a downward trajectory since then.”
He said he was expecting the trend to continue, especially considering the typical two-three week delay for the impact of the latest lockdown.
Positivity rate (positive cases as a percentage of tests taken)
Lincolnshire’s current positivity rate is 8.4%, down from around 12% at the most recent peak.
Around 25,000 tests have been carried out a week since early October, meaning around 2,100 positive tests a week compared to 3,000 previously.
However, health bosses do not want people to stop getting tests, in fact they want more to do so.
The criteria looks at percentage of positive tests rather than number carried out. Hence, if more people get tested and come back negative the positivity rate goes down.
“The key thing that I want the people to do is if they’ve got any symptoms, no matter how mild, isolate themselves, get themselves a test,” said Professor Ward.
“The reason [government] are interested in this is that it’s a good indicator of two things. One, are you doing enough tests and two, are you targeting them?
“It’s really just giving us an indication of are we doing enough tests. If it’s going up, and it’s going up quite quickly, that’s when there’s a concern that we’re seeing an increase in actual community based infections.
“It’s coming down in Lincolnshire.”
Pressure on the NHS
United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust bosses have confirmed they currently have 233 COVID patients and are using 74% of their hospital capacity.
The number has been steadily rising over the past month or so — on October 23 it has some 80 patients.
A ULHT spokesperson: “To help keep the pressure off of Lincolnshire’s hospitals so we can continue to deliver the best care to our patients, we would ask the public to please follow the latest government guidelines.”
However, bosses say the key message is that the NHS remains open and that people should continue to attend if they need it or if they have an appoointment booked.
The trust has not yet had to close its COVID-free site in Grantham, which other areas have chosen to do.
Professor Ward said there was no intention to discourage people from using their facilities.
“If people need the NHS, it is there for them whether it’s a very life-threatening 999 condition, or whether you just need a bit of advice and support, in which case NHS 111 online is your first port of call.
“Everything is still still open and available. Just consider whether you need it and if you’re not sure, check online or give them a ring.”
In conclusion, what can people do differently to help?
“I’m not sure it is doing anything differently,” said Professor Ward.
“It’s more of the same because we are seeing the benefits of people in Lincolnshire sticking by the rules.
“We just want them to keep doing that — it comes back to the same messages hands, face, space, minimise travelling if you can, work from home and minimise your contact with other people.
“That’s how we’ll bring the rates right down and then hopefully, we’ll be in a different position in the middle of December.”
The new tier allocations will be reviewed every two weeks from December 2.