COVID cases in Essex almost doubling every week but death rates in decline

COVID cases are currently almost doubling every week in Essex, but health chiefs have said hospital ICU and death rates are “declining”.

Overall the average number of COVID cases across Essex is around 600 – an 82 per cent rise in a week.

The rates in the over 60s went up by 60 per cent.

However, the age groups which are seeing the highest rates of increase are in the 23 to 39 age group and 40 to 59 age groups.

One councillor said in the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board meeting on Tuesday (March 16) he believed anecdotally the real rate was higher than 600 per 100,000 because “numerous” friends are getting COVID.

The highest rate is in Maldon which is experiencing a rate of 850 per 100,000.

Castle Point is now seeing rates of 660 per 100,000 population which is the fastest increase – doubling in the past week.

Dr Maggie Pacini, acting director of public health for Essex, said the increase in COVID cases is not being shifted into higher deaths or serious infection.

She said: “Because of relative small numbers the hospitalisation data is subject to fluctuation so it is harder to note what trends are going on.

“But at the moment bed occupancy in ICU and high dependency are showing small decreases in number and deaths in hospital appear to be declining.

“We have now moved into a new phase of the pandemic – living with COVID.

“So there is going to be less testing happening but that will still be maintained for certain staff sectors such as health and social care and vulnerable people.

“We are going to be changing to responding to a changing situation.

“So that may be if there is a new surge or new variant or it may just be at a local level with local outbreaks.

“But the focus moving forward will be about protecting through testing and treatment.”

John Spence, chairman of the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “I can name numerous friends of my group who are down with COVID – I don’t think people are bothering to notify now.

“They are just being responsible and locking themselves away. My suspicion is the rates are far greater but it is hospitalisation that matters.”

Health Secretary Savid Javid said a rise in COVID infections was to be “expected” following the easing of COVID estrictions in England earlier this year.

He said that the UK remains in a “very good position” but he urged adults eligible for a booster vaccine to come forward and get the jab.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics COVID-19 Infections Survey showed an increase in cases across the whole of the UK.

Meanwhile, Mr Javid said that a “handful” of cases of the so-called Deltacron variant had been identified in the UK, but were “not of particular concern”. Some 99.9 per cent per cent of infections in Britain are of the Omicron variant, he added.

Asked about cases of Deltacron in the UK, Mr Javid told BBC Breakfast on March 14: “I think there’s only a handful of cases here in the UK, it’s not something that’s of particular concern to us at this point in time. We do keep the situation under review on a daily basis, but the dominant variant in the UK – 99.9 per cent of infections are Omicron infections.

“And whilst the rate has gone up modestly in the last few days, that’s to be expected as we are now open as a country and there’s more social mixing, but there’s nothing in the data at this point in time that gives us any cause for concern.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter