Suffolk Local Outbreak Engagement Board confirms Enhanced Response Area designation will not be renewed
Suffolk leaders have confirmed they are not asking for an extension to the Enhanced Response Area designation that brings additional Government support to tackle Covid-19.
Health bosses said it had demonstrated improvements in vaccination rates and hospital numbers, while in Ipswich Covid-19 rates had fallen by around 50%.
Suffolk requested to become an ERA at the end of October as it was battling high case numbers of the Delta variant, a slower 12-15 vaccination programme than planned, pressures on hospitals and some parts of Ipswich demonstrating lower vaccine take-up.
Ipswich had also had the highest case rates in the country shortly before the ERA began.The county began its five week designation on November 1, and comes to an end this week. During that time additional Government support included further advertising and messaging, surge vaccination efforts in low-take up areas of Ipswich and support in addressing outbreaks in schools.
On Friday, Suffolk’s director of Public Health Stuart Keeble said the ERA would not be extended.
“There were a number of factors that made it the right thing for us to apply to become an ERA and get that additional support,” he said.
“Although we are still in a challenging situation and the rates are still high, and obviously there is concern around Omicron, we now have the second lowest rates in the East of England and the rates in Ipswich have shown a 50% decrease.
“Our vaccine and booster programme are in a good place.
“If we wanted to stay an ERA we would need to apply again but the decision we have made amongst the LOEB [Local Outbreak Engagement Board] was at this point given our position was not to continue with that.
“Part of that is also that the tools we needed are now available to us. The surge vaccination work we do we can continue after the ERA status, the communications we already have strong campaigns locally, and the school contingencies framework has been adapted and updated which means more actions can be undertaken locally.
“We feel it is the right time now to step out of that space.
“It was the right thing to do and we saw some positive benefits, but we are not out of the woods yet.”
Mr Keeble told Friday’s outbreak board meeting of health, police and council bosses that hospital numbers had gone down by around a third, currently around 95 patients compared to a peak of 160 across the main hospitals.
Current case rates are at 378.6 cases per 100,000 people, which is below both the England average of 438.3, and the East of England average (474.5).
In addition, Ipswich rates had fallen by 40-50% since the county went into an ERA, Mr Keeble said.
A new school protocol was drawn up which provided levels of additional measures depending on case numbers, while targeted work in Ipswich’s lowest vaccine take-up spots has been taking place which has involved door knocking and leaflet drops.
That work over the first two weekends in Westgate and then Chantry and Gipping resulted in 96 first doses, 87 second doses and 143 booster jabs.
This weekend the work continues at the California Social Club on Saturday from 10am-5pm and 10am-5pm at the Corn Exchange on Sunday,
Plans have already been voiced for work to move on to Lowestoft once the four weekends in Ipswich have been completed.