Covid infection rate in Sheffield rises sharply, as vaccination push intensifies
Sheffield’s Covid infection rate has risen by more than 40 per cent in the space of a week, as concern grows about the spread of the Delta variant.
The latest figures show that another 201 people tested positive for coronavirus in the city during the week ending June 7 – the latest date for which reliable data is available.
That’s a weekly rate of 34.4 new cases per 100,000 population – up from 24.3 during the previous seven days.
It remains well below the UK average of 55.2 new cases per 100,000 people and is just a fraction of the infection rate of 668.0 in Blackburn with Darwen, which is the highest in England.
The latest data shows there are eight Covid patients in hospitals in Sheffield two of whom are on ventilation, compared with a peak of 417 patients on January 22 this year.
Experts today urged the Government to be ‘cautious’ about fully lifting lockdown measures in England, warning that the rapid spread of the Delta variant first identified in India could lead to hospitals being overwhelmed.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Nervtag advisory group, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday: “This Delta variant seems to be about 60 per cent more transmissible than that (the Alpha variant).
“So it really has gone up another gear and that means that we really have to double down and not lose all the advantage that has been gained by the massive effort that has been put in so far.”
Professor Tom Solomon, director of the Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool, said the country could not afford a ‘bad decision’ on unlocking.
He told BBC Breakfast that while vaccines were having a ‘massive impact’, opening up could lead to hospitals being overwhelmed.
Prof Solomon added: “If you look at hospitalisations, they are doubling – the numbers are small but they are doubling approximately every seven days – and so if you then suddenly say we are going to open up completely we may end up with the hospitals overwhelmed again.
“So I think, unfortunately, we are just going to have to maybe give it another month until we have so many more people vaccinated.”
Ministers are reportedly considering pushing back the relaxation of controls planned for June 21 by up to four weeks as they race to roll out the vaccine to younger age groups.
A final decision is expected to be taken on Sunday ahead of a formal announcement by the Prime Minister at a news conference the following day.
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said it was ‘key’ that the country did not trip up at the final hurdle and that restrictions will be lifted in ‘a way that is safe’.
He told Times Radio on Saturday: “Ultimately we do, all of us, want to get back to the normal way of living and have these restrictions lifted. But it’s really, really key that we don’t trip up, potentially at the final hurdle.
“And so we want to ease these restrictions in a way that is safe.”