Portsmouth prepares for a fresh wave of coronavirus infections despite a quarter of residents now vaccinated
CITY health leaders in Portsmouth are drafting up emergency plans to tackle a fresh wave of coronavirus infections which could strike the community in May, The News understands.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, revealed an action plan was being put together on how to combat a potential new rise in infections.
It comes as the first measures to ease the third national lockdown started this week, with thousands of children returning to school after months away from classrooms.
More relaxations, including the opening of non-essential shops and leisure facilities, are due in the coming weeks as part of the prime minister’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown.
But health leaders fear this will bring with it a new wave of infections, with scientists warning up to 30,000 new coronavirus deaths could be recorded nationally by June of next year.
This comes despite the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines, which have seen millions of people nationwide receiving their first jab.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson revealed last night that more than a quarter of all residents in Portsmouth – 27.2 per cent – had so far been inoculated and that infection rates had plummeted by 54 per cent since last week, with 51.7 new infections per 100,000.
But speaking to The News, the Lib Dem leader said now was not a time for complacency.
‘We’re not near the end of this pandemic, we are expecting another peak at the end of May and beginning of June,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson warned.
‘This will be lower but we’re not out of the woods. I have asked public health to do a briefing and take that briefing to a cabinet meeting because I think everybody now thinks (the pandemic) is over and it’s not.
‘More people will catch this disease. Hopefully because of this vaccine there will be fewer of them who get very sick and there will be fewer people who will die.
‘But people will get very sick and some people will die. We’re not out of this yet and we have got to be very careful about relaxing too quickly.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson praised the people of Portsmouth for their ‘tremendous’ efforts in preventing the spread of the virus.
Latest figures covering the last week of February revealed that infection rates had fallen across the area.
Overall in Hampshire, the rate stood at 39.7 new infections per 100,000 – well below the English average of 66 and fractionally less than the south east region’s average of 41.
Secondary schools and colleges across the area are set to see pupils and students return in waves, with testing being carried out by staff.
Primary-aged pupils returned to lessons on Monday.