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Two small outbreaks to blame for 'significant' rise in West Berkshire Covid-19 cases

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However, number of infections in district are still among lowest in country

TWO ‘small outbreaks’ are to blame for the 23 new cases of Covid-19 in West Berkshire over the last seven days.

West Berkshire Council's head of public health and wellbeing, Matt Pearce, confirmed that one of those outbreaks has been at a care home, with the other taking place at Newbury Police Station.

At a meeting of the council's Local Outbreak Engagement Board this morning, Mr Pearce said that the rise was 'significant'.

Over the last seven days, there have also been five Covid-19 incidents 'specifically related to nurseries and schools’.

However, Mr Pearce added that these were ‘single isolated cases as things stand’.

NewburyToday is aware of one case at St Bartholomew’s School in Newbury, one at Garland Junior School in Burghfield and another at Theale Green School. It is not clear where the other two are.

Mr Pearce also said that “younger people are making up higher proportion of our cases at this time”, but added: “I think it’s important not to victimise them.”

Despite the high number of cases in the last week, West Berkshire still has one of the lowest infection rates in the country - with just one per cent of coronavirus tests coming back as positive.

Public Health England flags up an area with a positivity rate of 7.5 per cent or above as ‘red’ on a traffic light system.

Anything less than 2.5 per cent is green, so Mr Pearce said West Berkshire was in a ‘good position’.

However he warned against complacency after a significant increase in cases over the last couple of weeks.

From September 7 to 14 there were seven new cases of Covid-19 in West Berkshire – which equated to 4.4 cases per 100,000 people.

However the following week- from September 14 to 20 - there were 16 new cases, which represented 10.1 cases per 100,000 people.

That 128 per cent jump meant that West Berkshire recorded one of the highest percentage increases in the whole of England for that week.

Mr Pearce acknowledged that while this jump was ‘quite significant’, he emphasised that - in terms of numbers - this represented an increase of just nine cases.

The Government classifies anywhere that has 50 cases per 100,000 people as an ‘area of concern’.

Anything from 25 cases per 100,000 people or above rates as ‘amber’, while anything below that is considered ‘green’.

Seven of the 23 new Covid-19 cases recorded in West Berkshire this week came yesterday (Thursday).

Councillor Steve Masters noted that the seven day increase in West Berkshire was above average when compared to the rest of the south east of England.

He asked Mr Pearce if he thought complacency was starting to creep in and whether the council should be ‘more strident with its messaging’. To which Mr Pearce replied: “Let’s thank everyone across West Berkshire in terms of what they have done.

“I recognise how difficult it has been to adopt all the different measures whether it’s wearing a face covering, whether it not spending time with family and friends as much as they want to.

“I’m not suggesting an air of complacency, but I just think we need to continue with all the measures we know work.

“The three measures which I constantly talk about is washing hands, keeping space and wearing a face mask.

“These are the most evidence-based things we can do. We just need to keep pushing these messages out to our communities.”

In total, there have been 133 deaths from Covid-19 in West Berkshire, but none since September 9.

Of those 133 deaths, six people have died at home, 61 in hospital, 64 in a care home, one in a hospice and one in a setting described as ‘other’.

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