Why Sheffield is 'lucky' despite ‘highest number of coronavirus cases in England per 100,000’

A medical expert has reassured the public after it emerged Sheffield has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in England per 100,000 of the population – and said the city is “really lucky” thanks to the “phenomenal” amount of testing taking place.

Dr Andrew Lee, a reader of public health at Sheffield University, said people should take official coronavirus figures “with a pinch of salt” in a bid to calm fears over the numbers.

On the high number of confirmed cases in the city, he told The Star: “It's because Sheffield Teaching Hospitals have done lots and lots and lots of testing. A good couple of weeks ago they were doing over 1,000 tests a day and this was almost 10 per cent of the total number in the country.

“So, Sheffield has one per cent of England's population but because it's doing 10 per cent of the tests there's a huge discrepancy there.”

Dr Andrew Lee from Sheffield University has reassured the public over the high number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the city. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Dr Lee previously labelled the high number of confirmed cases in the city ‘misleading and alarming’.

He said: “The number of cases we can see is like the tip of an iceberg. The iceberg is the same size, but if you test more you see more of the iceberg.”

As of Saturday, April 11 there were 1,137 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Sheffield, with 89 recorded deaths.

Dr Lee said: “The number of tests they are doing in Sheffield is phenomenal. We are really lucky.

“A lot of the testing we have done in Sheffield was in its health workers. Being able to test all the staff who might have symptoms allows the hospital to see who can return to work. In other areas where there haven't been enough tests they don't know who's safe to return. That then puts pressure on staffing. Testing also reassures staff if they know they don't have it.”

On Friday think tank Centre for Cities found Sheffield had 162 confirmed Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in the city – four more than London.

Dr Lee said: “Take the official number with a pinch of salt. For the man on the street it's very tricky to interpret. And even for the experts it's difficult. Every town is different. Some towns have more young people and some have deprivation. Some are testing more and testing lots. It's a risk to overinterpret the figures.

“Don't be alarmed by the figures. The news I am hearing from our clinicians in hospital is they are not overwhelmed in Sheffield, which is great news. It's a very different situation in London where the hospitals are really, really busy. That's not the case in Yorkshire.”

He added: “In a way we are lucky in Yorkshire. We are one of the quieter places in the country.”

“Keep safe with the government message. The more we adhere to it the faster we get those numbers down and the faster we will get out of lockdown.”