August 20, 2021 11.14 am This story is over 27 months old

A month after Freedom Day – health chief discusses ‘challenges’ in Lincolnshire

Numbers have gone down, but outbreaks have thrown up issues

It’s been just over a month since Freedom Day and Lincolnshire has had somewhat of a “challenging” since the majority of COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on July 19.

Lincolnshire County Council’s deputy director of public health, Andy Fox, said the past few weeks – which saw the county’s capital become one of the UK’s coronavirus hotspots – had been “really interesting”.

He said: “It demonstrates how quickly things can change and how volatile the situation is at the moment.

“What it’s telling us is that COVID’s going to be around for a long time.

“We have moved into a different stage of the pandemic, where instead of seeing these big increases and big decreases, we’re just going to see a high background level of COVID-19 circulating with some volatility, with some ups and downs, and people need to be aware that this is not over, COVID-19 is out there and it’s circulating, we still need to take all the steps that we can to protect ourselves and others.”

Below are some key points from the past month:

  • Authority bosses did not predict the number of cases to fall as fast as they did early on. The situation has now stabilised, but later spikes which pushed Lincoln to its infection rate heights highlighted the risks associated with the night-time economy.
  • Measures put in place to tackle Lincoln’s high numbers – including mobile testing centres, a shuttle bus to the vaccination centre and shops stocking tests – have seen a “really good uptake”. Mr Fox said it’s “been really successful” and said numbers had declined significantly in the past few days.
  • However, the night-time economy will continue to be monitored going forward as younger people are “very happy to be in densely crowded indoor areas that COVID likes”. The key message remains for health bosses that people should take as many steps to protect themselves as possible, including ‘hands, face, space’ and regular testing.
  • Hospitalisations and deaths are going up, with 58 patients in ULHT facilities in the most recent data to Public Health – six in ventilation – but admissions have not reached the “far higher” peak of the second wave when daily admissions were between 25 to 30. This means pressure from COVID on hospitals is reduced, however, it is balanced elsewhere by a rise in other viruses and flu which is causing a concern going forward.
  • It is still older adults predominantly going to hospital and it is complications caused by COVID-19. Numbers of those who are dying who have been double-jabbed by the vaccine are small.
  • Vaccinations are working, however the number of people taking up vaccinations has decreased as just a quarter of the population remains to be double-jabbed. And bosses say they’re “not happy with the number”. “We won’t be until everybody is vaccinated,” said Mr Fox, acknowledging that the “sense of risk is lower” in the younger generations. The county needs to reach around 95% vaccinations to achieve herd immunity. “It’s vitally important to get as many people vaccinated as possible to protect the health of the population to protect individuals as well,” said Mr Fox.
  • There is evidence a third booster jab would “increase the levels of immunity in the population”, but there are other issues to consider, said Mr Fox. Any increased danger of complications, as well as political and moral arguments needed to be considered. Government bosses are hoping to start handing out booster doses from next month.