Broomfield Hospital consultant predicts new national lockdown amid surge in coronavirus cases

A doctor at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, has indicated that a full national lockdown for at least the next four weeks is unavoidable – given the number of surging COVID-19 cases across Essex.

Respiratory consultant Dr Steve Jenkins predicted that January looked “very grim” in an earlier Facebook post, where he also warned that he could not be certain that the NHS would be able to provide comprehensive emergency care heading into deep winter.

Dr Jenkins has now added that a full lockdown for the next month at least, is inescapable in order to get the transmission rate back under control. He added that it may have to include schools.

Dr Jenkins wrote: “Only national lockdown brought the R number consistently below 1 in the first wave. If lockdown had come one week earlier, the death toll would have reduced from 36,700 to 15,700.

“This is all modelling data which has to be taken into account, but given the higher transmissibility (sic) of the current strain, and the high current case numbers, I can’t see anything other than a full lockdown for the next month at least.

“It may well have to include schools which would be really unfortunate but maybe unavoidable.”

Primary schools will implement remote learning amid rising COVID-19 infection levels in the area.

Essex is seeing the highest number of cases in the country – the latest set of complete data showed that in the seven days to December 24, there were 13,270 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Essex.

The highest weekly case rates were in Brentwood and Epping Forest, with rates of 1471.3 and 1,435.1, respectively.

As of December 29, there were 1,107 beds occupied by confirmed COVID-19 patients in Essex hospital trusts equating to 32 per cent of trust capacity and is 45 per cent higher compared to bed occupancy one week previously.

Research from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine showed Tier 2 restrictions reduced the R rate by 2 per cent and Tier 3 reduced it by 10 per cent.

During the UK November lockdown, with schools open the R was reduced by 22 per cent, while there was between a 35 and 45 per cent reduction during a Wales and Northern Ireland style lockdown with school closures.

From the Imperial group research has shown that the overall infection fatality rate –  how many people die for each infection – for the UK is 1.3 per cent, 0.9 per cent for London while 3.5 per cent of infections required hospitalisation.

The infection fatality rate for over-80s is 10.4 per cent and for 36 per cent for care home residents.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter