Portsmouth Covid-19 infection rate is falling but health boss urges people to stick with lockdown

HEALTH bosses have said there is still more vital work to be done in the fight against Covid-19 as infection rates across the area continue to fall.

By Millie Salkeld
Friday, 12th February 2021, 9:13 am

The first week of 2021 brought with it a peak in Covid-19 infections across Portsmouth, Havant, Fareham and Gosport.

A national lockdown was announced just four days into the year as the local picture was reflected across the country.

But latest figures now show rates have decreased, with Portsmouth infections cut by around a quarter in the last week.

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Lalys Pharmacy in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, Covid-19 vaccination centre. Pictured is: Peter Knight from Bognor Regis, having his Covid-19 vaccination. Picture: Sarah Standing (110221-2811)

This is bringing a new ray of hope, particularly when coupled with the fact nearly 398,000 vaccinations have been administered across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

But Portsmouth City Council’s head of public health, Helen Atkinson, has warned that we mustn’t let up now.

She told The News: ‘The number of cases, although high, are an improvement when compared to the rates last November. However NHS services are still under pressure locally.

‘So I’m asking that we all keep going with the national lockdown measures — hands, face, space — everyone really can make a difference.’

Latest data shows that lockdown has helped bring down rates across the area.

Portsmouth’s seven-day rolling rate of infection, compiled by the PA news agency, was 196.8 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to February 7. In this period there were 423 new cases.

In the same period, Fareham’s infection rate was 182.4, Gosport’s was 191 and Havant saw a rate of 156.1 per 100,000.

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Portsmouth City Council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The rates have been falling continuously which is good but they are still very high compared to what we were seeing in the summer.

‘Capacity at QA Hospital has also reduced which is good news but they are still under a lot of pressure and their staff are shattered.

‘We are going in the right direction but we are not there yet.’

So far 803 patients have died at Queen Alexandra Hospital, with 827 deaths in care homes across the Portsmouth and Hampshire council areas.

The Hampshire council area has seen the second highest number of deaths in care homes in the country.

The second wave brought a virus peak that NHS staff are still tackling.

More than double the amount of patients with Covid were being treated in the first week of January at the hospital compared to the first wave in April.

Medical director Dr John Knighton said the hospital’s intensive care unit had been treating up to triple the amount of the sickest patients than normal.

NHS England figures published yesterday showed that as of Tuesday this week, there were 35 patients on mechanical ventilation, down from 51 on January 21.

The trust was caring for 270 patients with coronavirus in total, compared to 335 last week and 457 on January 5. Last year’s peak was just 244.

Dr Knighton previously told The News the second wave was ‘orders of magnitude’ different to the first.

The peak of this dangerous second wave comes after last summer saw very low rates in the wider Portsmouth area.

Infections began to climb through autumn and December, and QA saw another increase of patients.

On September 14, social gatherings of more than six people were banned with fines of up to £100 for those who did comply and up to £3,200 for repeat offenders. Ten days later, a 10pm curfew was imposed on restaurants and pubs.

Halfway through October, the country was divided into medium, high and very high restrictions – our area was placed in medium.

Four businesses in Portsmouth were slapped with fines for breaching coronavirus regulations including one that hosted a wake for more than 15 people.

On November 5, England was put into its second lockdown with people only allowed out for work, education, exercise and shopping.

Four weeks later on December 2, lockdown ended and the three-tiered system began.

Portsmouth, Fareham, Havant and Gosport were placed into tier two.

It meant hairdressers and gyms could open, hospitality venues with substantial meals could stay open until 11pm and fans could watch Portsmouth FC play at Fratton Park with half capacity.

Two weeks later Portsmouth, Havant and Gosport were upped to tier three with hospitality venues having to shut their doors.

Just two days later the three authorities were plunged into the new tier four.

Residents banned from the more relaxed Christmas restrictions.

By Boxing Day everywhere in Hampshire was in the highest tier, except the New Forest.

In the week to January 4, Havant’s rate hit 728.9, per 100,000 people.

Gosport and Fareham reached 478.6 and 568.7 in the same period.

In Portsmouth, the infection rate reached 672.9 in the week to January 11.

With rates peaking all over the country, schools opened for the first day of term before England had gone into its third lockdown on January 5.

The drop in infections since last month’s peak has been attributed to the ‘determination’ of residents doing their part – and the vaccination programme.

Alan Mak, MP for Havant, said: ‘Falling Covid infection rates across my constituency and the wider region is good news and reflects the strong determination of local residents to defeat the virus as our vaccination programme ramps up.’

Across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, 376,917 first doses have been dished out – including 94.5 per cent of over-80s.

Nearly all of 75 to 79-year-olds have received their first jab while 69.2 per cent of 70 to 74-year-olds have also had their first dose.

Fourteen vaccination centres are now live across the area, as well as the mass centre at St James’ Hospital in Milton and the hub at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

This is backed up by Lalys Pharmacy in Guildhall Walk, Greywell Pharmacy in Leigh Park, Village Pharmacy in Stubbington and Goldchem Pharmacy in Southsea.

Ms Atkinson added: ‘The vaccination programme in Portsmouth is going really well with good levels of uptake in the first four priority groups. I would like to thank all those involved in the roll-out and delivery of the vaccine programme.

‘I encourage everyone to take up the opportunity to get vaccinated when they receive their invite so that we can all get back to as normal a life as possible as soon as possible.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘It is great that we are getting people vaccinated but people need to remember that just because they have the vaccine does not mean they can’t get Covid and that they can’t do anything they want.

‘Everyone must carry on sticking to the rules and I think Covid will be with this for a while yet before life goes back to normal.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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