Sheffield health boss says city has reached coronavirus peak

Sheffield’s most senior public health official has said he believes the city has reached its peak of coronavirus cases – and gave the go-ahead for members of the public to wear protective face masks.

By Steve Jones
Friday, 24th April 2020, 2:09 pm

Greg Fell, the director of Public Health in Sheffield, said the city’s hospitals are “coping” with the number of patients currently being treated for Covid-19 and supplies of PPE are “robust”.

It comes as the the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and hospital admissions in the UK has started to plateau.

Mr Fell said: “I think we are at the peak [in Sheffield] from the virus sources and data we see. We are probably at the peak now. The number of new cases is flatlining.

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Greg Fell.

“The hospital is coping. Everyone was afraid it would be overwhelmed but they are coping.”

Mr Fell said testing capacity in Sheffield continues to be expanded to identify and treat more new cases.

He added: “I think we are at the top of the curve now and what has happened is that the efforts that we have all put into the really quite draconian steps has undoubtedly saved lives – I couldn't begin to quantify how many.

“The hospital’s have done an amazing job expanding capacity. 2,000 a day was the number I heard a week or two ago, so it might be more now.”

When asked if a second wave of infections is likely to be as devastating for the country’s death toll – which as of Thursday stood at 18,738 in hospitals alone – Mr Fell replied: “Not if we can help it.”

He said: “Coronavirus will be with us for a year I suspect. We have had wave one, that will subside in a few weeks, but we are nowhere near the point where herd immunity is in place.”

Despite reports of PPE shortages nationally, Mr Fell said Sheffield was not facing the same issue.

He said: “I think it’s robust as it can be. We have sweated buckets to optimise the supply that we have got.

“I’m not hearing lots of stories of health and social care workers who can’t get PPE. But it won’t be perfect all of the time.”

As well as the city’s hospitals and GP surgeries, PPE is also being supplied to no fewer than 111 care homes in Sheffield.

Mr Fell added: “What’s formally getting back to us is that we are doing a pretty good job of matching supply and demand.”

On the use of protective face masks in public, he said: “If you had asked me a month ago I would have said not sure but the evidence is changing and I will go with the evidence.

“There’s a discussion between a surgical face mask and a cloth covering and I’m proposing that we reserve face masks for health and social care workers.

He added: “If people choose to wear a mask then that’s fine.”