Are Norfolk and Waveney meeting the four tests to escape lockdown?

Norwich, is one of three areas in Norfolk which has seen a fall in the coronavirus infection rate wi

- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

The prime minister will later today announce his "roadmap" for exiting the third national lockdown.

Boris Johnson will reveal the government's plans to parliament at 3.30pm this afternoon before addressing the nation in a televised press conference at 7pm.

In this so-called "roadmap", he will include a system of four tests which will be used to judge whether the country is ready for eased restrictions.

These tests are:

  1.  The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully

  2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated

  3.  Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS

  4. The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

The government has claimed these four tests are currently being met - but what is the state of play in Norfolk and Waveney?

Test one: vaccine progress

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One area Norfolk and Waveney can certainly be considered a leading light in is the progress of its vaccine rollout.

Figures released by NHS England last week revealed that more than a third of people in the region had been given at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine - with just two regions having made more progress than this.

Almost 300,000 doses have been given out in Norfolk and Waveney, which suggests this test is being passed with flying colours.

However, the government's test is not of the success thus far, it is of this success continues, so the proof will have to be in the pudding.

As of February 14, the date the figures run up to, 17.4pc of those under 70 had received a first dose, with the latest phase of the roll-out including those aged between 65 and 69 and clinically vulnerable people of all ages.

Test two: reduced hospitalisation 

Since the beginning of lockdown, the region's three main hospitals have seen a steady decline in the number of Covid-19 patients they are treating.

Since January 8, the amount of Covid patients in the three hospitals has dropped by around a third. 

Paul Hunter, a professor in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, last week said: "The data is quite noisy and has jumped around a bit in the past, but although it is difficult, what we can see is that the seven-day ratio of hospital admissions is drifting downwards."

However, while the number of beds occupied by Covid patients is falling, it does still remain higher than during the first wave of the virus.


Test three: infection rates

The most recent figures for infection rates in the region show downward trajectories across the board.

​​When contrasting with figures pre-lockdown, the infection rate is considerably lower.

As the county headed into the third national lockdown, the infection rate for Norfolk as a whole was more than 500 cases per 100,000 people - as high as it has ever been since the beginning of the pandemic.

The latest figures, which show the seven days leading up to February 16, show a Norfolk-wide infection rate of 109.1 cases per 100,000 people.

This rate is still higher than that seen throughout the majority of the first wave of the pandemic. In fact, it was not until November 2020 that the rate of infection passed 100 cases per 100,000 people in Norfolk.


Test four: new variant

One area that may prove a cause for some concern is the presence of new variants of the virus.

We learned last week that cases of the new South African variant of the virus had been detected in the Diss and Roydon areas of the county.

This has prompted surge testing to be carried out in this part of the region, with thousands of people being tested for the variant at the tail end of last week.

With the results of these tests pending, it makes the risk factor of the new strain difficult to assess.

 

A mass COVID testing centre at Diss Leisure Centre. Picture: Danielle Booden

A mass COVID testing centre at Diss Leisure Centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden


 READ MORE: Key questions answered ahead of lockdown easing announcement

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