Is lockdown working in Herts? Here's what the latest data tells us
- Credit: PA/Jane Barlow
Coronavirus cases are finally falling in Hertfordshire after ten days of lockdown.
The county’s infection rate remains high and hospital staff say colleagues are “on their knees”, as the number of people requiring treatment for severe cases continues to rise.
But for four days in a row, infections have been lower than they were a week earlier. These were the first week-on-week falls since late November.
Between Wednesday, January 6, and Saturday, January 9, Hertfordshire’s infection rate fell by a greater percentage, week-on-week, every day.
On January 6, there were 780.6 confirmed cases per 100,000 people – down 2.5 per cent on a week earlier.
On January 7, it was 769.8 – down 6 per cent on the week before.
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On January 8, Herts recorded 235 new cases, pushing the infection rate back up to 789.6 - but this was still 6.4 per cent lower than a week earlier.
And on January 9, the infection rate dropped to 746.4 per 100,000 – 12.5 per cent lower than a week earlier.
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The local picture
In some parts of Hertfordshire, the infection rate is still rising.
In North Hertfordshire, the case rate rose by 11.6 per cent on January 9.
In Welwyn Hatfield, it rose 3.5 per cent overall, but the rise was attributable primarily to two communities with high increases.
Cases were up by 57.7 per cent in Hatfield East and 56.8 per cent in Hatfield North and West.
Infections are also still rising in Stevenage.
Between New Year’s Eve and January 4, the borough saw cases rise by between 40 and 60 per cent every day, compared to a week earlier.
But since then the increases have gradually slowed. By January 9, the week-on-week increase was just 1.4 per cent.
Conversely, St Albans has registered week-on-week reductions for five consecutive days – and at greater percentages than the county-wide drops.
On January 6, it fell by 12 per cent. Over the following days, the week-on-week reductions were 17.4 per cent, 20.6 per cent and, on January 9, 22.8 per cent.
Why is the overall rate falling?
Hertfordshire was placed under Tier 4 restrictions on December 21 and England entered a national lockdown on January 6.
The virus typically takes more than a week to incubate and cause symptoms, prompting people to get tested – so the fall on January 6 would indicate a reduction in transmission between one and two weeks earlier, during Tier 4 restrictions.
However, the fall could also be a natural consequence of people having been at home over Christmas and New Year, rather than mixing with others in school and at work.
Therefore, it will take another week to know whether lockdown restrictions are working.
Hospitalisations and deaths are typically several weeks behind infection rates, as the virus takes time to become severe.
So as new infections began to fall in early January, severe illnesses continued to rise.
On January 6, when the week-on-week infection rate dropped by 2.5 per cent, the number of hospital cases rose by 25 per cent.
There were 562 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds across four NHS trusts in Hertfordshire, compared to 445 a week earlier.
By January 12, the last day of verified hospital bed data, the number was still climbing. There were now 604 patients in hospital beds – up more than 31 per cent on 461 a week earlier.
Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer, warned this week that the latest peak in hospitalisations and deaths could last another three weeks.
This week, staff at the Lister Hospital said some colleagues were quitting as "unprecedented" demand left them "overwhelmed".
NHS data revealed that by January 10, the East and North Herts NHS trust, which runs the Lister, only had four critical care beds which were unoccupied.
Chief executive Nick Carver said: “I would urge the community to ease the burden by strictly complying with government advice about staying home to protect our healthcare services.”