Northamptonshire's hospitals warn of no early end to lockdown after 500-plus Covid admissions in a fortnight
Drop in positive tests are "chinks of light" ... but NHS still under huge pressure
Hospital chiefs in Northamptonshire are warning not to expect a quick end to the latest lockdown despite falls in the number of positive Covid-19 tests across the county.
Public Health England reported 3,515 new cases in the week to January 20 — compared to 5,190 at the peak of the virus' second wave on January 8.
Yet NHS staff at our two acute hospitals have seen more than 500 coronavirus patients admitted between January 1 and January 15.
And Kettering General Hospital chief executive Eileen Doyle warned: "We are by no means out of the woods and we are expecting this level of demand to continue for quite some time."
Latest NHS data revealed:
■ 518 coronavirus patients were admitted to Northampton and Kettering hospitals between January 1 and January 15.
■ 47 of those were taken in during a single day on January 2 — eight days after Christmas Day when rules were relaxed allowing families to get together.
■ 134 coronavirus deaths were reported over the same period between Jan 1 and Jan 15, although a further 43 have been confirmed by NHS England since.
■ 411 Covid-positive patients were being treated in hospital on January 19, occupying nearly 40 per cent of the total beds available.
■ 52 patients were in intesive care, 26 with Covid and 26 being treated for non Covid-related illnesses.
■ 827 of the hospitals' 10,000 staff were off work on Friday, around half of them self-isolating, either after a positive test of being identified by Test and Trace as a close contact of someone who has.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday listed death rates and the number of people in hospitals as two of the main factors the Government will take into account when arriving at decisions over lifting the current restrictions.
Northamptonshire's Director of Public Health, Lucy Wightman, described the drop in numbers of positive tests at "chinks of light"
Ms Doyle added: "We are very busy and that busyness does not seem to be abating.
"Everybody is keeping their chin up and digging deep but it is an uphill struggle because more patients we have with Covid in the hospital the fewer beds we have to treat people for other things.
"Falls in numbers of positive tests are obviously encouraging news but we are by no means out of the woods and we are expecting this level of demand to continue for quite some time.
"There is often a lag period between people first developing symptoms and then getting to the stage where they need to go to hospital.
"We are managing but sickness levels among staff are quite high.
"This has been going on a long time and all of us want to come out of lockdown as soon as feasibly possible. But what none of us want to see is a second wave.
"With vaccines rolling out there is light at the end of the tunnel. But we have to stick to the guidelines, stick to the rules and that way there will be brighter times in the summer."
Infection rates in the two worst-affected areas of the county have also fallen by around a third alongside the number of positive swabs, from 928 to 614.8 in Northampton and from 983.1 to 623.1 in Corby between January 8 and January 15.
But current daily figures released by the Public Health England are likely to be skewed by the impact of Sunday's snow and wintry weather forcing some testing centres to close for periods on Monday.