April 1, 2022 11.30 am This story is over 26 months old

COVID rules and free testing end as Lincolnshire hospitalisations spike

At their highest since February 2021

Most free COVID-19 testing will end today as the majority of restrictions come to an end.

The county’s PCR testing centres including those at the Lincolnshire Showground and the University of Lincoln’s Joseph Banks Laboratories, have already closed and residents across the country will mostly have to purchase lateral flow tests from retail locations.

Certain groups will still be eligible for free testing – NHS and care staff will continue to have access to free testing, as will people at risk of serious illness from Covid-19

Natalie Liddle, Acting Head of Service – Health Protection, said: “The testing sites have now closed in line with government policy, which is happening across the country. It coincides with the ending of free testing, except for certain critical groups. People with symptoms of a respiratory infection, including Covid-19, a high temperature or who feel unwell, are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people, until they feel well enough to resume normal activities.

“Anyone with a positive Covid-19 test result will be advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days, which is when they are most infectious. We encourage people to get vaccinated and continue to remember the basics – Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air.”

But as restrictions ease off there have been concerns over rising numbers, so here’s a look at the tally as of March 31.

According to the government’s COVID dashboard, in Lincolnshire cases have slowly been rising over the past few weeks with 491 new cases confirmed on March 1, compared to a high of 1,327 on March 21.

However, the latest average seven day rates did start to level off from the middle of the month onwards moving from 398.3 on March 1 to the latest available figure on March 23 showing a rate of 1.031.7.

Despite some of the increases, cases have yet to reach anywhere near the heights of January 4 when there were 2,619 cases confirmed – the highest daily recorded number since the start of the pandemic.

Testing itself has seen a sharp drop since January anyway, but the county was still seeing more than 7,000 tests a day carried out – sometimes higher than 10,000. The latest seven-day average testing rate was 10,435.3 reported on March 23.

Government chart showing the number of cases in Lincolnshire since the beginning of the year.

With people now being expected to pay for tests we can forecast the number might drop dramatically, particularly as people weigh up tax, energy and shopping cost increases.

Many will point out the key thing right now is how many cases are equating to hospitalisations and deaths.

According to the dashboard, ULHT has seen a rise in patient numbers since the beginning of March, starting with 32 on March 1 and reporting 115 by March 29. The latter figure is the highest since February 2, 2021.

Thankfully just one or two patients have been put on mechanical ventilation beds in the past few days, indicating that although more patients have the virus, it is not making as many people seriously ill.

The latest NHS data shows that since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,041 deaths at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust hospitals, with 48 at Lincolnshire Community Health Service and one at Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust.

Vaccine charts show a clear drop-off in numbers for the booster dose of the vaccine.

The rise in cases that are ‘mild’ is mainly down to residents being vaccinated, however, the number of people coming forward for jabs has been slowly falling in recent months.

Since January 1, the number of people who have been double dosed and boosted in Lincolnshire has risen from just 62.1% to 68.3%.

However, 82.3% of the population have had two doses, meaning there is some protection there. Vaccine fatigue or COVID-scepticism has taken a further hold in the population since then.

The over 77s have been offered a fourth dose of the booster vaccine but data is not yet available on uptake of that dosage.

According to the data, the majority of age groups over 50 have had a 90% uptake of the vaccine, meaning the most vulnerable are largely protected.

A total of 1,680,948 doses have been handed out, of which 584,791 are second jabs and 485,308 are booster or third doses.