Newcastle has experienced its first Covid-19 deaths in care homes for six months, a public health chief has confirmed.
City leaders were told on Wednesday (15 September) morning that there have been at least two deaths in care homes in the past few weeks where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.
Prof Eugene Milne, Newcastle's public health director, also warned that there has been a "concerning" rise in Covid cases among the over-65s population.
He told a meeting of the City Futures Board that discovering that Covid was once again present in care facilities was "disappointing" and that health and social care officials were considering what measures can be taken to improve safety measures without limiting residents' freedoms to the extent that they were during lockdown.
Prof Milne said: "There is a difficult balance to be struck between control of infection and the liberty of individuals in care homes and the risks that are associated with both. We are trying to tread that line.
"What we have seen is the recurrence of, for example, diarrhoea and vomiting outbreaks in some care homes, which suggests that the standards of hygiene and protection we have seen over the last 18 months are not quite what they were.
"Some of that is a natural consequence of moving back towards more normality. We don't want to have that degree of restriction on care home residents in the longer term, but at the same time it is an indication of exposures beginning to reappear that were not there before."
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The public health expert added that his other chief concern relating to the virus' presence in Newcastle at the moment was a notable rise in positive tests among the over-65s.
He presented data showing that there have recently been around 16 to 18 cases per day recorded in that age bracket, back up to the numbers seen during previous infection peaks in January and July.
However, he added that not as many of those people are now suffering severe illness as was the case prior to the rollout of vaccines and that the increase in cases may be slowing and "settling at a more constant level."