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Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading experiencing 'small numbers' of coronavirus cases

West Berkshire rate below national average but cases increasing

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886633

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The Royal Berkshire Hospital is starting to report small numbers of coronavirus cases, but they are "nowhere near" levels being seen in the north of England. 

A West Berkshire Local Outbreak Management Board meeting also heard this morning that although West Berkshire's cases and rates were below average, there was no room for complacency. 

Head of Public Health at West Berkshire Council Matt Pearce said: "In terms of comparison to the other local authorities West Berkshire remains lower, but clearly our cases are still increasing."

Mr Pearce said an indicator of when local authorities consider moving up a Tier is the cases per 100,000 population among those aged 60 and over. 

West Berkshire's figure was 32.3. The south east rate is 35.6 and England's is 101.2. 

Although West Berkshire is below average, Mr Pearce said: "The other thing I want us to warn against is we can compare to the south east and the national averages, but in the context of the grand scheme of things, generally cases are going up. We might always be lower than the south east and national average but the cases might be going up and the rates might be going up."

Covid-19 was recorded on two deaths certificates in West Berkshire in the last two weeks, the first since August.

Mr Pearce said: "We are already starting to see, sadly, the impact in terms of the rise of the incidents is now starting to have an impact and translate into deaths, although not as high as we saw in the first waves." 

The meeting heard that the number of hospital admissions in the south east were increasing but no data for Berkshire hospitals was publicly available. 

Deputy director Public Health Berkshire West Meradin Peachey said that the Royal Berkshire Hospital was "starting to report small numbers of covid diagnosees coming through A&E."

She added: "They are starting to see more admissions in respiratory and they are starting to use the high dependency unit for covid, but they are nowhere near capacity, so it's very small rises at the moment. It's nowhere near the patterns that we are seeing in the north of England at the moment." 

Data for the seven-day rolling average from the 10th to the 16th of October showed that the number of people in West Berkshire tested per 100,000 population was 240.1. 

The district was the lowest in Berkshire, with the highest being the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead at 349.3. 

The positivity weekly rate, the proportion of people testing positive for Covid-19, in West Berkshire was 3.6 per cent. 

The highest in Berkshire was Slough at 6.4 per cent. The South East rate was 3.1 per cent and England's rate was 7.2 per cent.

When asked about the speed of infection and rate increase and whether the existing measures were having an impact, Mr Pearce said: "There are some indications that it might be slowing the speed.

"Initially I think we thought that we were two to three weeks behind some of the higher areas across the country. However, the feeling is we might be four, five or six weeks behind some of those areas up north. It's really hard to tell at this moment in time.

"In terms of whether the existing measures have been successful, that's really hard to tell, it's quite a subjective view, but clearly our rates are lower and we are also a rural part of the country, so that will probably play into our hands, but cases are increasing despite all the measures in place, so it might not necessarily be sufficient at this moment in time because they are increasing.

"Clearly I think everyone is playing their part, that's making a difference, and we encourage the public to continue to do that."  

Commenting on the speed of infection Ms Peachey said: "What we found was that a couple of weeks ago was that the south east started rising in cases at about 6.5 per cent and we modelled it for us and that meant all of us would have been well over the 100 per 100,000 within about two to three weeks, and certainly in the territory of Tier 3 by Christmas.

"But what's happened in the last couple of weeks is its slowed and is not as fast as originally projected, which is why rates have not gone up as fast. Even in West Berkshire we are still increasing but at a slower rate than we expected."

The briefing was also shown information on cases in schools, care homes and work places based on exposures/incidents, clusters and outbreaks. 

An incident is an isolated case of Covid-19, a cluster is one or two cases with no epidemiological link and an outbreak is more than three cases. 

Between October 5 and 19 there had been four isolated Covid-19 incidents in schools, one cluster and two outbreaks. 

There had been five incidents in care homes, and two incidents were recorded in workplaces, along with one cluster and one outbreak. 

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