'We're not out of the woods yet', warns health chief as number of new Covid-19 cases falls in Northamptonshire

"There are increasing signs of normality returning but we must remember risk posed by local outbreaks remains significant"

Northamptonshire's health chief warns the county is not out of the woods yet despite the number of new Covid-19 cases falling dramatically.

Government figures released today (Friday) puts the average number of fresh positive tests for the killer bug at 5.7 daily over the last two weeks.

Just over two weeks ago the equivalent number stood at 11.78 — just after county health officials had admitted they were puzzled the number of new infections was not falling as fast in Northamptonshire as it was elsewhere in the UK.

Current figures are finally heading downwards but Northamptonshire's Director of Public Health, Lucy Wightman said: “Whilst there are increasing signs of normality returning, we must remember that the virus continues to be in circulation and the risk posed by local outbreaks remains significant.

“It is important that we all recognise that regular and thorough hand washing, maintaining distance from others and wearing face coverings where appropriate, are all part of keeping us safe while the Coronavirus is in circulation. The ‘new normal’ means that these measures should remain part of our everyday lives until such time as we are able to find a vaccine.

“The aim of these measures is to keep the infection rate low, prevent outbreaks which can overwhelm health services and to save lives.

"Following these social distancing and other infection prevention and control guidelines gives us the best chance of keeping the virus transmission under control.

Non-essential shops reopened in town centres last week with reminders about social distancing. Photo: Leila Coker

“I continue to urge the Northamptonshire public to act responsibly in order to reduce the transmission of the virus and reduce the risk to our local communities.”

The recent falls in the number of new positive tests being returned by labs is welcome news as town centres start to reopen, retailers return to business and more students return to school.

However, the public are being reminded once again of the need to comply with social distancing and hand hygiene guidence.

Anyone experiencing coronavirus symptoms should self-isolate with their household and visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 to find out how they can get tested. A mobile testing unit is set up in Northampton tomorrow (Saturday) and those with a high temperature, continuous cough or loss of / change in sense of smell or taste can book appointments via the Government website.

Mobile units have increased the number of tests in the county. Photo: Getty Images

Those who test positive for Covid-19 will be helped by the NHS test and trace service to identify people they have recently been in contact with so they can be alerted and self-isolate.

The 14-day average of new infections in Northamptonshire peaked at 43.17 on April 19, although that came at a time when the Government was increasing testing in a bid to reach its own target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. More testing led, inevitably, to more positive results.

On June 4 — when the 14-day average was still 13 — county GP Joanne Watt admitted: “It’s unclear why we are seeing a different pattern of infection in Northamptonshire when other areas of the UK are starting to see a decrease.”

The first coronavirus case reported in Northamptonshire was on March 3 when a person who had just returned from holiday in Italy was confirmed to have tested positive.

Northamptonshire's health chief Lucy Wightman

That number rose to 170 by the end of March then multiplied to 1,019 on April 30 following the change in testing policy away from swabbing only those with symptoms in hospital.

Today's bulletin put the number of positive tests in the county at 1,684 after a rise of just one in the 24-hour period up to 9am on Friday.

The daily rise in positive tests in Northamptonshire issued by Public Health England has been in single figures on nine of the last ten days.

Northampton General Hospital saw 17 Covid-19 patients die in the seven days up to June 12 — the second highest figure among all of England’s 219 NHS Trusts. Kettering General was sixth highest on 12. A total of 501 victims have died in the county's two main hospitals while a further 127 deaths have been linked to the bug in Northamptonshire care homes.

Last week’s equivalent numbers showed 14 deaths with a spike of five in one day on Monday (June 15).

So far this week, six Covid-19 victims had been confirmed at NGH up to 5pm on Thursday night and just one since last Tuesday at Kettering — although a known lag in the reporting process means there is still scope for more victims to be added to the official lists.