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Increase in Covid-19 infections spark reminder from health leaders to get vaccinated

A three-fold increase in the number of Covid-19 infections within communities across Suffolk over a two-week period has led health and care leaders to remind eligible local people to get their booster vaccination and not to be complacent about coronavirus. 

Suffolk County Council says between 14th-20th March, there were 9,054 cases within the community across Suffolk– almost triple the number of cases seen at the start of the month (3,190 cases between 1st-6th March).

The system’s three acute hospitals – Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk – are currently caring for 212 people with Covid-19 between them.

That’s a rise from 92 two weeks ago. 

While clinicians say this figure is not yet as high as at other times during the pandemic, it has risen sharply within a matter of days and is one of the reasons why coronavirus safety measures remain in place in all local health settings.

Stuart Keeble, Director of Public at Suffolk County Council, said: “The additional vaccines for people who are 75 years old and over, and clinically vulnerable people aged 12 and over is being introduced now for a reason.

“Vaccines have proven to be the most effective way of protecting yourself against severe disease and illness caused by Covid-19.

“However, levels of vaccination protection wanes over time.

“Those people who received their last jab in autumn may now have much lower levels of immunity at a time when Covid-19 is on the rise in our communities.

“It is therefore vitally important all relevant groups of people come forward and get their vaccination now.”

Dr Richard West, GP in Woolpit and medical director for the covid-19 vaccination programme across Suffolk and north east Essex, said: “Coronavirus is still very much making its presence known as these figures show.

“It continues to cause disruption and misery for many in our region as well as increasing pressure on our already overstretched services.

“We must collectively continue to play our part to reduce the spread of coronavirus by acting in a way that keeps ourselves and those around us safe.

“Please continue to wear face covering, social distance wherever possible - especially in hospitals, GP practices and other health care settings where this policy remains in place - and of course to stay at home and away from others when showing signs of Covid-19.”

This week, the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation NHS Trust, which runs a number of clinical sites including Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, made the decision to suspend most visiting to patients due to the increasing number of patients with Covid-19 in its hospitals, following a rapid rise in the number of infections in the community. 

Its Chief Executive, Nick Hulme, said: “Making this decision so soon after we opened visiting further is disappointing for us all, but it goes to show how fast the virus is spreading again and that COVID-19 has not gone away.

“It’s still very real for everyone working in our hospitals.

“Any decision to suspend visiting in our hospitals is carefully considered.

“It does not get any easier and it’s never a decision we take lightly as we understand the impact it has had on patients and their families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know the support of friends and family is key to helping a patient on the road to recovery, but our priority is to keep everyone safe in our hospitals.

“We will be keeping a very close eye on the situation, and we will share any news on changes to our visiting policy as quickly as we can.”

Sue Wilkinson, chief nurse at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said: “As the number of coronavirus cases once again rise in our hospital and in the community, we urge residents of west Suffolk to wear a surgical face mask, which are available at the front of the hospital, and practice social distancing when visiting any of our sites.

“It’s very well known that vaccines are the best way to protect ourselves, and our loved ones, from Covid-19. Our vaccine taskforce has been working tirelessly up and down the county alongside West Suffolk Alliance partners, offering first-time vaccinations to anyone over 12; boosters to anyone over 16 and fourth doses to anyone over 75.

“Our team are also happy to take the time to allay the concerns of anyone worried about accepting the vaccine, unsure of their eligibility, or who are needle phobic.”

The Covid-19 vaccine continues to be available across Suffolk and north east Essex, and it is never too late for people who have yet to come forward for the jab to do so.

People can choose to have the vaccine at a wide range of sites such as Chevington Close in Bury St Edmunds, Gainsborough Sports Centre in Ipswich or at Colchester Football Club, from a community pharmacy, or from a pop-up clinic.

GP practices and pharmacies who previously offered the vaccine may well continue – please contact them or check your GP’s website.

Details of all local vaccination sites, including those which do not require a pre-booked appointment, can be found online at www.sneevaccine.org.uk

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