'Pandemic is not over' warn North West councils as Covid cases sharply rise

There is a stark warning we still need to be on our guard against Covid-19 as the country marks exactly two years since it went into lockdown.

Lives were completely changed on the the 23 March 2020 when the Prime Minister addressed the public and effectively shut down the country.

But now, with legal restrictions in England lifted and Scotland and Wales close behind, many would be forgiven for thinking the pandemic was over.

However, despite plans to 'live with covid', some North West councils are warning that the pandemic is from far over amid a sharp rise in cases.

81.3% of all positive Covid-19 cases in Cheshire East are of the new BA.2 Omicron variant. Credit: PA

Latest figures released on the official UK government website (21 March) show the rate of positive cases in Cheshire East has risen to 843 per 100,000 population.

81.3% of all positive Covid-19 cases are of the new BA.2 Omicron variant, which is shown to be far more transmissible.

Dr Matt Tyrer, director of public health at Cheshire East Council, said: "The rise in positive Covid-19 cases recently not only in Cheshire East but in neighbouring areas, is worrying, although not wholly surprising since restrictions have ended in England.

Dr Matt Tyrer, director of public health at Cheshire East Council

"Looking at the recent surge in cases across the borough in all age groups, it is clear the pandemic is far from over.

"Sadly, we are also seeing an increase in hospitalisations for people with Covid-19, which is creating additional pressures, especially in our local hospitals.

"Residents should continue to follow the latest Covid-19 safety advice including self-isolating if you develop Covid symptoms or test positive, washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, and unless exempt, wearing a face mask in busy, crowded indoor places, especially in healthcare settings."

Meanwhile, Warrington Council say there were over 1,700 new confirmed cases last week, which equates to a rate of over 800 per 100,000.

Health bosses say this is "considerably higher" than recent cases.

The rate per 100,000 population in the North West is 642 and 780 in England.

Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "Positive Covid-19 cases were falling right up until the beginning of this month.

"I am also concerned about government funding not being renewed for the Covid Zoe project run by King’s College London, as well as a reduction of £440m for test & trace programmes and public health teams which have been working so effectively on infection control. These cuts do not appear to have come at a good time.

In a joint statement, Simon Constable, Chief Executive of Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Dr Andrew Davies, Chief Clinical Officer for NHS Warrington Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "Like hospitals across the country, Warrington’s A&E department is extremely busy. We urge patients to look at alternatives such as the Urgent Treatment Centres in Widnes and Runcorn, NHS 111, community pharmacists, and their GPs."

North West councils urge people to still test and get vaccinated against Covid. Credit: PA

Cheshire East council say residents can continue to take the following five steps to help reduce the rate of infection and for those around them:

  • Get vaccinated to reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill and to protect others

  • Wear a face covering in crowded and indoor places – unless exempt

  • Let in fresh air when you meet others indoors, especially if they’re at high risk from Covid-19

  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitiser

  • Stay at home and get tested if you have Covid-19 symptoms.