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East Riding Health Boss Backs Delay to Easing of COVID Restrictions

Monday, June 14th, 2021 7:34am

By Joe Gerrard, Local Democracy Reporter

East Riding Council’s public health lead has said upcoming coronavirus restrictions easing should be pushed back to “buy time” for more vaccinations as the Delta variant continues to spread.

East Riding Council’s Public Health Director Andy Kingdom said current levels of restrictions should stay in the coming weeks to curb the spread of coronavirus, particularly the “catchier” Delta variant.

He added he was also concerned that Euro 2020 matches could fuel infections as people gather inside pubs and other venues, the “best” settings for coronavirus to spread.

It comes as coronavirus cases have increased in the East Riding, rising from 69 new cases found from Monday, May 24 to Sunday, May 30 to 80 the following week.

The seven day rolling rate rose from 20 to 23 per 100,000 people during the same period.

It also comes as plans are being drawn up to speed up the local vaccine rollout, including a mobile centre to be deployed across the East Riding.

Mr Kingdom said although the East Riding’s rise was “slight”, faster increases and growing hospitalisation rates among young unvaccinated people where the Delta variant had taken hold were worrying signs.

The director said:

“There has been a definite change in the last week, things are looking more pessimistic.

“Our rates are below half of Yorkshire and the Humber’s, but it’s not inevitable that they’ll stay that way.

“Rises in cases linked to the Delta variant in places like the North West and West Yorkshire seem to be leading to more younger people ending up in hospital.

“That’s because they’re the group who’ve been mixing and socialising more, but they’re also the group that largely hasn’t been vaccinated yet.

“It’s concerning because the virus appears to be spreading faster than we can vaccinate them.

“The growth of the Delta variant is slow in the East Riding at the moment, it probably accounts for about half of our cases whereas in other areas it’s more like 80 per cent.

“The places we’re seeing it in are those where you’ve got higher numbers of homes with multiple occupants and workplaces like factories where people are close together and have to shout over noise.

“So far we’ve had a few Delta outbreaks but we’ve been good at getting them under control, but it’s inevitable that it will become more dominant.

“It’s a strain that’s found an advantage over the others and is able to out compete them, once you get so many seeding points it will take hold.

“That being said it’s still coronavirus, it affects people in the same way and we deal with it in the same way, by sticking to the restrictions and getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

Mr Kingdom said residents visiting pubs and other venues to watch the first Euro 2020 matches should be mindful that they were going into environments where coronavirus could spread easily.

He added he was concerned the Delta variant could then spread further and to more people, making it harder to trace contacts and get them to isolate to contain it.

The director said:

“With the pubs it’s tough, we know people want to go out to the match and celebrate the results if they go well.

“But if I could describe the best conditions to spread the virus, it would be to put people together indoors, throw in alcohol and have them singing, chanting and hugging each other.

“The timing isn’t great with the Delta variant, and the virus doesn’t care about the circumstances it’s just looking for another person to infect.

“It’s great that we’re able to hold the Euros in a pandemic, it shows how far we’ve come, but even if someone goes and catches coronavirus and they’re okay, they could pass it on to someone who wouldn’t be.

“I would advise residents who are thinking of going out to watch them to get tested before and afterwards, and to isolate if you test positive.

“I’d also advise them to wear a face mask while inside, one with an England flag on it.”

Mr Kingdom said given the current situation, he would want current restrictions to remain in place for “a little bit longer”.

Government ministers are due to confirm later today whether the easing of restrictions on June 21st will go ahead. Given the rising numbers of cases there were strong indications from government sources on Monday morning that the easing will be delayed by up to four weeks.

The director said:

“We need those restrictions until we can get more second vaccine doses to the over 50s and first ones to the 18 to 30 year olds.

“In the East Riding we’d probably be okay to go ahead with it, last week I thought we’d just about get away with it, but now I think it’s a big risk.

“The problem is as we saw with the tier system, the virus eventually crosses boundaries anyway.

“It would be disruptive, especially for businesses who want certainty, but if we get it wrong we could end up back in a stricter lockdown.”

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