North Yorkshire care home cases quadruple before lockdown

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Cases of coronavirus in North Yorkshire care homes have quadrupled in the month before the new national lockdown, it has been revealed.

Richard Webb, the county’s corporate director of health and adult services, told a briefing that the summer resurgence of Covid is now showing its true effect on care homes – with the number of cases among residents and staff rising from 42 to 165.

Mr Webb said the “sobering” statistics are a result of a two to three week delay in infections among the general population transmitting into care homes.

He added that out of the county’s 235 care settings – only 31 are currently dealing with outbreaks of two or more infections.

There are, however, some concerns over the scale of larger outbreaks that are being reported.

Mr Webb said: “We have seen some change in the nature of outbreaks. In some homes, it’s still a very small numbers of cases – three or four people.

“However, in five homes we have got larger outbreaks. But our care providers have done a really good job of preventing and containing outbreaks and are certainly acting very fast on the number of cases.”

The concern over care homes comes on the eve of England’s second national shutdown.

From midnight tonight, non-essential shops, restaurants and pubs will have to close until at least 2 December.

But unlike the restrictions in spring, schools, colleges and universities will stay open, although there remains questions over whether care home visits will be allowed.

Mr Webb said it is important that new government guidance strikes a balance between protecting residents from the virus and safeguarding their mental health.

North Yorkshire is one of only a few regions in the north to move from Tier 1 restrictions to a full lockdown.

The county’s weekly infection rate of 209 cases per 100,000 people has remained below the national average, but Harrogate (261) and Selby (232) had become areas of concern which sparked talks of Tier 2 restrictions.

Richard Flinton, chair of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience forum, said he is hopeful that the lockdown – combined with a new locally-run track and trace system – will slow infections so the county can return to the lowest level of restrictions before Christmas.

He told the briefing:  “We have got to positively embrace the national lockdown. I do understand it will have a knock-on effect for businesses and also for people.

“That’s why we need to make sure that we look out for each other and think about those who we live near to. If we work together we can keep this lockdown limited and get to those benefits on the other side.”

Mr Flinton also called on residents to pull together and support local businesses during the second shutdown.

He added: “We are under no illusions that this will be a difficult and challenging time for business. So in the way that we have held together on many things, I would absolutely put a call out to all our residents to make sure that we support businesses.

“When we are thinking about Christmas and retail opportunities – let’s think North Yorkshire.”

North Yorkshire County Council confirmed it has reached an agreement with Public Health England to run its own test and trace system from Thursday.

Calls will be carried out by trained staff at the authority’s headquarters in Northallerton seven days a week.