Greg Fell, Sheffield’s director of public health, also revealed that preparations are underway to begin administering the Covid-19 vaccine in the city, with the first people potentially getting their jabs before the year is out.
But he warned that despite the infection rate falling and signs that the pressure on hospitals is starting to plateau, the city remains ‘a long way from being out of the woods’.
In his latest update, published today, Mr Fell said the number of new coronavirus cases was falling among all age groups except secondary school age children, where it remains ‘steady’.
He said the R rate, which indicates how fast the virus is spreading, had dropped locally to 0.9, meaning that for every 100 people who are infected, they will pass it on to 90 others.
“All of the signals and indicators from the epidemiology are going in the right direction and continue to do so. I don’t anticipate that will change any time in the next few weeks,” he said.
He continued: “We’ve got relatively little room for manoeuvre. While rates are coming down, they’re coming down from quite a high rate. R0 is only just below 1 so the potential is for further take off and that could happen really quite quickly. So we’re still a long way from being out of the woods.”
The latest weekly infection rate in Sheffield is 177.3 new cases per 100,000 people, down from 262.5 the previous week and more than 400 before the national lockdown began.
Sheffield, along with the rest of South Yorkshire, will be placed under Tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday, December 2, when the national lockdown ends, but it could be moved to a lower tier after that is reviewed by December 16.
Regarding the chances of that happening, Mr Fell said: “There’s a possibility we may be in Tier 2 but it’s too soon to call that one way or the other.”
Reguatory approval for the vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech is expected to be granted within days, it has been reported, enabling injections to begin.
Mr Fell said: “The next few weeks, for our team, is going to be very focused on doing all we can to support the NHS, in its activity, to prepare for vaccination.
"We anticipate we’ll be beginning to vaccinate in earnest possibly this calendar year but certainly in early 2021, preparing to use the new tests, lateral flow tests, in defined cohorts of people who don’t have symptoms and preparing for Christmas.
Clearly Christmas is coming and whilst we all want to celebrate we need to be mindful that the more mixing with the more people that will lead to an increase in cases and we need to be prepared for that and to risk manage that as best we possibly can.”
Mr Fell urged people to continue getting tested even if they have the mildest of symptoms, and he advised them to continue washing their hands regularly and thoroughly, wearing face coverings and keeping their distance from one another.