Lincolnshire is having a “bleak midwinter” as the coronavirus death toll soared, local health bosses said.
Over the past seven days, 94 of Lincolnshire’s 651 deaths – nearly 15% – have mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate.
At the end of November the county’s average weekly deaths had risen by nearly 60% on the previous year — from 175 to 275.
The figures are part of a Christmas Carol style warning, with Lincolnshire County Council’s director of public health professor Derek Ward playing all three ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future: “behave over the festive period or face the consequences”.
Professor Ward said: “I’m sorry, I am the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and it is not a fun role, but it is my job to look after the people of Lincolnshire.
“Our numbers are coming down and are flat now, and that’s good news — but they’ve not come down far enough, and if one person decides not to form a bubble, and we avoid one case transmission then it’s worth it.”
“We are already in a bleak midwinter — you just have to look at the national data that shows that whilst Lincolnshire has come down and flattened, the rest of the country is on its way back up again.
“I would predict in the next week or more maybe, the England average will go up above Lincolnshire, but that’s not because we’ve come down, it’s because they’ve come up.”
On Thursday, the government chose to leave Lincolnshire in tier 3 lockdown, meaning it faces the toughest restrictions before and after the Christmas break, until December 31 at least, when tiers will be reviewed next by the government.
Professor Ward said the news was expected, with Lincolnshire’s infection rate hovering around the 240-250 per 100,000 people — well above the England average — for the past few days.
The national average is also rising again, mainly due to spikes in figures to the south of the country, and on Friday morning the England average was 207 against Lincolnshire at 263.
Lincoln & Boston top East Midlands infections
An epidemiology report released Thursday by the government said that in the seven days up to December 9, Lincoln and Boston had the highest infection rate in the East Midlands at 488.4 and 393.3 respectively.
In fact, all but one of the district councils was in the top 15 of all 40 local authorities across the region.
From December 23, national lockdown rules will be relaxed to allow for up to three household bubbles to mix for a maximum of five days (December 27).
Professor Ward warned, however, that “just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should”.
“We are in a treacherous time of year for COVID. There’s some real risks here if people don’t keep socially distanced and don’t do everything they can to minimise the risk of transmission.
“If we aren’t extremely cautious, despite what we’re allowed to do, we will see a really significant increase in cases at the beginning of January.
“That will lead to a very significant strain on the NHS by the middle of January.
“That will lead to very significant number of deaths by the end of January.
“That would be my prediction if we are not very, very careful with Christmas.”