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Suffolk's health chief says 'light at end of tunnel' with Covid-19 as cases fall but urges people to stay responsible as Christmas approaches

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There is light at the end of the tunnel for Covid-19, but people need to play their part to get there, Suffolk’s Public Health chief has said.

Friday’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting of council and health leaders was told that coronavirus rates were falling both locally and nationally, but numbers were still higher than where they need to be.

Public Health Suffolk director Stuart Keeble has urged people to continue being responsible around face masks and hand washing, particularly as the run up to Christmas will likely see more household mixing and winter pressures on health services.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk. Picture: Suffolk County Council

“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we have got to do quite a lot of work to get through that tunnel to get to the end. We need to be working hard to navigate that,” he said.

“The rate of people testing positive is starting to fall now and has been falling since the end of October.

“Hospital admissions are still at the highest point since back in March at the moment, but again it is a downward curve as well.

“The Suffolk rate now is below the England rate and also the East of England rate as well, but we have still got some areas with higher rates.

“Ipswich is still an area of concern and overall these rates are far far higher than what we have seen this time last year.”

Ipswich is currently the 46th highest out of 350 local authority areas.

Areas of Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket and Haverhill were also displaying slightly higher numbers, the meeting heard.

Mr Keeble said: “We have got used to the rates being where they are, but when we look at hospital admissions data they have implications. They are coming down they are in the right direction but there is further to go on this.

“The main driver before was 10-14 year olds, and we have seen a considerable reduction in those – that is what is driving the rates down.

“Clearly we have had had the half term providing a bit of a fire break but as we have said all along we need to watch and see what happens next.”

Concerns in the run up to the Christmas centre around the vaccine efficacy waning, which means getting booster jabs is important, as well as new variants.

He added: “Mixing of households we have still not seen return back to original level, and also that intergenerational mix. That is the concern leading up to Christmas that it will bring different parts of families and communities together, so that will impact on future cases and hospital admissions.”

Current rates in Suffolk are 335.6 cases per 100,000 people – below the 362.7 regional average and the England average of 346.5.

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