Health chief reveals Sheffield’s new R rate ahead of Tier 3 review next week

Sheffield’s health chief says the city’s Covid-19 infection rate is falling ‘pretty quickly’ to the delight of analysts who have finally been able to get their green pens out.

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 2:28 pm

But he issued a warning that hospitals remain busy and there has been a slight increase in coronavirus outbreaks, suggesting people may be letting their guard drop in the ongoing fight against the disease.

Greg Fell, Sheffield’s director of public health, also urged people to be ‘very careful about how you celebrate Christmas’ to avoid the ‘very, very, very real risk’ of another significant take-off in infection rates.

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Greg Fell, Sheffield's director of public health

In his latest update, recorded yesterday and published today, Thursday, December 10, he said Sheffield’s latest weekly infection rate was now 130 new cases per 100,000 people, having been closer to 300 just a couple of weeks ago.

“Our analysts are very excited because they can get the green pen out now. We’d had a threshold of 150 per 100,000 which is where we begin to think, definitively, the trends are going in the right direction, which they are,” he said.

He added that the proportion of tests coming back positive had roughly halved in the last couple of weeks, from around 12 per cent to six per cent, which he said was more good news, while the R rate, which shows how fast the virus is spreading, was just below the crucial figure of one.

But he revealed that the picture was less positive when it came to hospitals.

"There are still significant numbers of people who are poorly in hospital with Covid and that’s coming down at a very, very slow rate,” he said.

With hospitals ‘still quite pressured’, he said the room for manouevring was ‘very, very, very limited’.

"My ask to Sheffield is to be very careful about how you celebrate Christmas. The pandemic is not over. It has a long, long way to run,” he said.

Sheffield is under Tier 3 restrictions, meaning pubs, restaurants and cafes must remain closed, with a decision due to be made by next Wednesday about whether it is moved to Tier 2.

The fact the infection rate is falling generally and among older people, who are at greater risk of serious illness, will aid its case, but the continued pressure on hospitals could harm its chances.