Senior health officials have expressed “real concern” that North Yorkshire could be placed under a higher tier of restrictions once the national lockdown ends in December.
Officials at the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum told a briefing that the county is continuing to see “significant surge” in coronavirus cases and hospital admissions which could mean a move up the local lockdown tier system.
Dr Lincoln Sargeant, the county’s director of public health, said the county had not yet hit its peak in the second wave and that it was unclear whether the three remaining weeks of lockdown would be enough to bring infections under control for a return to Tier 1.
He said the pandemic is in “full flight” and compared it to a “train that has picked up speed.”
“Very few things can stop it and that is why we are at a stage now where we need all the powers of the state through lockdown to put the breaks on,” he said.
“Many parts of the community are still very complacent because they have not seen the impact of the second wave.”
The county’s weekly infection rate has this week climbed above the national average for the first time and stands at 280 cases per 100,000 people.
A further breakdown for Harrogate shows the borough has a rate of 293, while Scarborough has seen its seven-day average more than double in the last week to 463.
It comes as the number of coronavirus patients being admitted to North Yorkshire’s hospitals has increased by a third in the last week.
Dr Sargeant said unlike some surrounding areas which have been under tougher restrictions for longer, North Yorkshire’s numbers were all heading in the wrong direction.
He also gave a cautious welcome to the news that the first effective coronavirus vaccine can prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19.
“With any new drug or any new vaccine the preliminary results are always going to be rosey for a variety of reasons,” he said. “It is likely that when this vaccine is deployed fully that the effectiveness will be somewhat less than 90%, but it is still positive news.
“There are a number of key outstanding questions that we will need to look at but we can be cautiously optimistic with the news that we have had.
“Even with a vaccine in place, long term behaviour change will still be necessary to keep the virus in check or we will keep going through subsequent waves.
“In the end it comes down to individual behaviour and the quicker we can change and maintain our behaviours, the faster we can get infections under control.”
Richard Webb, the county’s corporate director for health and adult services, said outbreaks in care homes were being kept under control and that the main area of concern was infections within households.
He said: “We are issuing a fresh appeal to the public for all of us to work together to fight the virus. In just two weeks time the government will receive the data on the impact of the lockdown and we will also be assessing our data.
“As North Yorkshire we went into the lockdown in Tier 1 – the lowest level of alert. However, as we see the cases at the moment we have a real concern that we will face tougher restrictions coming out of lockdown.
“We have the good news about the vaccine but it will be a massive programme to vaccinate 65 million people.
“We need to act now to stop household mixing, limit how far we travel and take the advice we are being given by the government to stay home and save lives.”