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CORONAVIRUS: Public health leaders warn of challenging winter ahead

CORONAVIRUS: Public health leaders warn of challenging winter ahead

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Sandwell public health leaders have warned of an “incredibly challenging winter” ahead.

At the time of writing, according to government coronavirus data, 49,879 positive cases have been recorded in Sandwell up to September 23. This includes both lateral flow tests and lab-reported.

In the same date range, daily positive cases are at an average of 152 people in Sandwell.

Speaking at the health and wellbeing board on Wednesday evening, Lisa McNally, director of public health for Sandwell, said infection rates “continue to remain steady” and applauded the work of local health workers.

“Infection rates continues to remain steady in Sandwell. As you know in recent weeks, infection rates in our country have risen, including parts of the West Midlands.

“There are a number of reasons for this, mainly our colleagues working their socks off, seven days a week on outbreak cell work and contact tracing, and improving collaboration across the NHS and the social and community sector. So well done to everyone.

“Sandwell is not an area that you would expect to below most places in the West Midlands at the moment. It’s a place of very high deprivation.  It’s got many multi-generational households that would make an area vulnerable to infectious diseases, and COVID in particular.

Between September 17 and September 23, 1,056 people had a confirmed positive test result. This shows an increase of 2.3% compared to the previous 7 days, at the time of writing.

Between September 13 and September 19, 70 people went into hospital with coronavirus. This shows no change compared to the previous seven days.

There were 67 patients in hospital with coronavirus on September 21.

There were zero deaths within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus reported on September 23.

Eight deaths were recorded between September 17 and September 23 within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. This shows a decrease of -20.0% compared to the previous seven days.

The rate of cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people in Sandwell stands at 342.5 – significantly higher than the England average, which stands at 264.8.

While the number of positive coronavirus cases in Sandwell has averaged out, Ms McNally warned of an “incredibly challenging winter”.

She said: “We’ve got an incredibly challenging winter ahead, because it’s not just the COVID, there’s a big backlog of care with a lot of non-covid demand coming through our hospital services.

“So the longer we can keep coronavirus lower the better. So that’s some good news.”

Ms McNally also praised Sandwell’s vaccination programme across the borough to help vaccinate individuals at pop-up clinics in gurdwaras, churches, and outside the Hawthorns.

Dr Ian Sykes, chair of NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), pointed out it was both “negative media coverage” holding back GPs from doing their work, and coverage exclusively focusing on hospitals only.

He said: ” I think one of the big pressures at the moment is actually around negative media coverage being directed at primary care. There was an assault in a practice in Manchester. There have been practices where graffiti has been drawn saying they are ‘totally useless’ and should ‘work harder’.

He added: “It’s unfortunate, we’ve got a negative media that has portrayed general practice being shut when it’s never been shut, it’s remained open, and is working very hard.”

Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter

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