Covid-19: 'There is a very, very bright light at the end of the tunnel,' say Northamptonshire health chiefs
Cases back to October levels, pressure on hospitals easing ahead of first step in lockdown roadmap
Health chiefs can finally see a "very, very bright light at the end of the tunnel" after dramatic decreases in Covid-19 cases in Northamptonshire.
Ahead of today's first step in the lockdown roadmap, with students back in classrooms and a slight easing in restrictions outdoors, figures revealed:
■ 632 positive Covid-19 tests in the last week, the lowest since October and compared to 5,000-plus in early January.
■ 90 Covid-positive patients in Northamptonshire's two main hospitals on Friday, compared to more than 400 a month ago.
■ 18 new cases confirmed yesterday in Northampton compared to 409 on January 7.
■ Corby is no longer the local authority with the highest case rate after numbers halved in the last week.
Stubbornly high rates in some areas prompted fears the county could face extra restrictions as the national lockdown is eased.
But Director of Public Health, Lucy Wightman, said: "It's good news, despite all of the challenges we've been facing in Northamptonshire, particularly in North Northants, that the total number of cases in a week is well below 1,000 for the first time in a long time.
"It demonstrates lockdown is working and we are starting to make rapid progress towards achieving a stable and suitable base to start coming out of lockdown.
"There is a very very bright light at the end of the tunnel and I'm starting to feel more confident that Northamptonshire will be coming out of lockdown at the same time as everybody else.
"We need to focus on the positive that we know more about this virus — we know more about how to treat it and we know more about how to avoid catching it.
"Those are the bits we need to focus on for these last few weeks so we come out of lockdown at the same time as everybody else and able to follow through on the proposed dates and get back to some sort of normality."
Thousands of youngsters will be back in school for the first time in 2021 from today while people are allowed to meet outside with one other person, not just for exercise, but for recreation — a socially-distanced catch-up.
Other restrictions remain in place for now but the next stop on the roadmap — the return of the 'rule of six' no earlier than March 29 — relies on case rates remaining manageable.
And Mrs Wightman warned: "I fully expect to see cases rise after each step through the roadmap.
"We need to try and keep those increases as low as possible with the next step in our sights."
Covid-positive patients occupied around 40 per cent of beds at Northamptonshire's two acute hosptials at Northampton and Kettering during the peak of pandemic's second wave.
But Kettering General Hospital CEO Eileen Doyle admitted: "It's fair to say we're still very, very busy — but it's busy with patients without Covid.
We're starting to turn the corner and it feels like we're getting back to much more normality in terms of general busyness, not Covid busy-ness."