Around 76% of Lincolnshire’s coronavirus cases are officially now considered to be the Kent variant – but bosses say we’re still free of the South African mutation.
Lincolnshire County Council’s assistant director of public health Andy Fox said, however, that only 32% of cases had been tested for the variant.
Bosses have previously said they expect that at some point in the future 98-100% of cases will be new variants.
Mr Fox said: “We haven’t yet had a report of the South African variant in Lincolnshire, so our assumption is that it is isn’t circulating in Lincolnshire at present.
“The majority of cases appear to be the ‘Kent’ variant at present.”
He said the level of testing carried out was due to the capacity at the labs and that there were plans to expand the numbers.
He added that nationally, the UK was “ahead of the curve” in its testing, but that he would like to see more genome sequencing to give “absolute gospel” on what was where.
KENT VARIANT: Key points
- The Kent variant was discovered in the South East of England
- It is known to be more transmissible – around 70%
- The variant is thought to be the reason behind the massive spike in cases in January which led to the current national lockdown rules
- However, it does not appear to be more dangerous or any more severe in terms of illness
- Vaccines have so far worked well against it, though there is still some debate on their effectiveness against other variants after South Africa halted its AstraZeneca rollout following “disappointing” test results
Elsewhere, health bosses said they were “really pleased” by the latest vaccine numbers which showed that as of Monday in Lincolnshire 90% of 75-79 year-olds had been vaccinated with more than 60% of 70-74 year-olds and more than 90% of the 80-plus age groups done
East Lindsey District Council leader Craig Leyland described it as “excellent progress” on social media.
Mr Fox said: “It was excellent to see the vaccination sites being stood up so quickly and that take up was so high.
“We’ve got a very high proportion of people in all the key risk groups actually taking the vaccine, despite some real concern that people might be reluctant to do so.”
Lincolnshire’s asymptomatic testing sites in Boston and Lincoln have now carried out 12,950 tests and found 171 previously unknown positives.
A further site at the Better Gym in Sleaford has been testing front-line workers who cannot work from home and has done more than 340 rapid tests, with less than 10 positives found.
Mr Fox said: “We are encouraging small and medium sized organisations, whose staff can’t work from home and for whom there is no testing capability in the workplace to use Sleaford and the other community testing sites.
“This expansion of asymptomatic testing follows the government announcement on the need to increase testing for the wider workforce who can’t work from home.”
Employers interested in organising a test must book via the government website by visiting https://www.gov.uk/get-workplace-coronavirus-tests
Lincolnshire could now be down to “background” infection rates of coronavirus cases due to lockdown and the vaccine roll-out, health bosses have said.
Discussing why South Holland and South Kesteven areas now had higher infection rates than other areas when previously they had been some of the lowest, Mr Fox said the majority of incidents were now “working age” people.
He said “It’s likely connected to people who have to work in a workplace where there is a COVID outbreak.
“It’s hard to mitigate against but we’re working hard with businesses to help them have COVID-secure practices.”
He said this was not just large factories, which had historically led to spikes, but now was also smaller employers. “It’s just there in the background,” he said.
“Nobody get’s hospitalised, there’s no real harm, but it is pushing the figures up and it is people who are out and about who have to work, as many of us do, who will always be that slightly higher risk”.
He said that there would be a point where it was hard to reduce the risk of COVID completely, and there would be outbreaks in certain areas, but that the vaccinated groups would see fewer incidents going forward.
“But because we’re not vaccinating currently the working age population, that’s going to take the longest,” he said.
Lincoln has moved from top of the infection rate table to third lowest over the past few weeks, moving down along with East Lindsey.
Mr Fox said it was good news but hard to speculate the reason why. However, he pointed to a larger population of younger adult people in Lincoln, and a larger elderly population in East Lindsey.
“I wouldn’t post to behaviour among people particularly, however,” he said.
“We’ll be researching this for years to come to try and understand what caused all the different fluctuations and outbreaks,” he added.