North Yorkshire is a “week or so” behind London’s surge in Covid infections and hospitalisations, a senior health official has warned.
Dr Victoria Turner, public health consultant at North Yorkshire County Council, told a meeting of the county’s Outbreak Management Advisory Board on Thursday that while the capital was at the epicentre of the omicron wave, there were a “relatively small number” of cases in North Yorkshire.
But she added infections were likely to rise and that hospitalisations would follow as the true impact of the new variant is felt over the New Year.
She said: “The level of hospitalisations we are seeing at the moment are predominantly reflecting where we were with the Delta variant a couple of weeks ago.
“But it is safe to say omicron is going to be the dominant variant in North Yorkshire.”
The warning comes as early studies by researchers at the Imperial College London have found the Omicron variant may cause milder illness than Delta.
Dr Turner said while the findings were encouraging, it was still early data and that the larger number of infections from Omicron meant a rise in hospitalisations – similar to what is being seen in London – should be expected.
“It is still not 100% certain how severe omicron is compared to delta and other previous variants,” she said.
“And there still remains the same lag time between becoming infected and hospitalised, so over the next week or two we are likely to see hospitalisations increase as the omicron wave is reflected in the figures.
“There is then usually a week to two weeks lag between hospitalisations and deaths.”
Hospitalisations are the key figures which government ministers are now monitoring as they consider further restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said no further measures are needed at present as he also urged people to be cautious over Christmas.
Today’s meeting of the North Yorkshire Outbreak Management Advisory Board heard there are currently 94 Covid patients in the county’s hospitals, including 39 in South Tees, 26 in York, 16 in Scarborough and 13 in Harrogate.
Sue Peckitt, chief nurse at the NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group, described the situation as “fairly stable” but added health services were still feeling the strain from winter pressures.
She also said a large number of the Covid patients currently received treatment were over 65s and that most of those in intensive care were unvaccinated or had underlying health conditions.
She said: “There are currently 94 inpatients across the North Yorkshire bed base, 10 of which are in intensive care.
“This is a fairly stable picture and we are preparing for any influx should we need to step up additional beds over Christmas and New Year.
“Omicron is coming into North Yorkshire and we anticipate that we may see more hospitalisations, but we are waiting to see what the trend is showing in other parts of the country.”
Mrs Peckitt also said while the vaccination rollout was going “exceptionally well”, officials had noted a drop in attendance at vaccine sites in recent days.
She said this is thought to be due to patients concerned about feeling unwell with vaccine side effects over the festive period.
According to Public Health England figures, more than 370,060 people across North Yorkshire have now had their booster vaccine.
This represents around 64% of the county’s population.
Meanwhile, Selby has the highest weekly infection rate in the county with 716 cases per 100,000 people. This is followed by Harrogate at 643, Craven 617, Ryedale 594, Hambleton 545, Richmondshire 417 and Scarborough 352.
The England average is 1,006.