Social distancing still important says councillor

More than 10,000 Southend residents have experienced symptoms of coronavirus since March, according to new figures published by the NHS.

Health service data shows that across Southend, 11,575 people reported possible Covid-19 symptoms between March 18 and May 14.

While there has been just 356 confirmed cases in the borough, Councillor Martin Terry, who oversees public protection, said the number of people with symptoms demonstrate why physical distancing is so important.

He said: “This virus has not gone away. Across the country we have generally been successful in getting the infection rate below what is known as R1 and we need to keep it below that.

“But more importantly, we do not want people catching this illness. We are all in a learning curve with this, some of us are affected by it badly and for others it can even be fatal.

“We need to retain physical distancing to protect us all.”

The data, which is based on reports logged with the 111 service, shows that 52 per cent of the helpline calls were during the first two weeks in March while just 8 per cent were logged during the first two weeks of May.

Separate figures show the Mid and South Essex 111 helpline received a total of 36,818 calls in April.

This was 50 per cent less than in March, when there were 73,514.

With national figures showing that call to the 111 helpline are up and A&E attendances are reaching historic lows, health think tank Nuffield Trust has raised concerns that people have begun avoiding hospitals due to fear of the virus.

But a decision to merge all hospital trusts across the Mid and South Essex region in April has made it unclear whether the same trend had occurred in this region.

Since the merger on April 1, there has been 15,489 A&E attendances recorded across Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals.

A spokesman for the newly formed Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust said the three hospitals are beginning to see an increase in attendances.

He said: “We have started to see larger numbers of patients attending our A&E departments who are not suspected to have Covid-19.

“We have the capacity and resources to treat emergency patients and have separate areas for the safe care of people with and without Covid-19.

“Those who need urgent medical help are advised to use NHS 111 online, calling NHS 111 if they are unable to get help or connected online.

“However, the public should continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency such as chest pain or severe injury.

“At this current time, it’s important to declare any coronavirus symptoms – even if they aren’t the reason for the call – whilst requesting help from the emergency services.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter