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Positive tests as a proportion of the regional population shows that the majority of new infections is due to the new variant, while new infections due to other variants, including the main strain which has hitherto been dominant, have plateaued.

“See the New Year in at home,” East Sussex residents advised

“See the New Year in at home” is the message from the East Sussex director of Public Health now that Eastbourne, Lewes and Wealdon have followed Hastings and Rother into Tier 4 and new cases in the UK have risen to record levels. Nick Terdre reports, research and graphics by Russell Hall.

“If you’d like to see in the New Year, please make it a night in with just the people you live with,” East Sussex director of Public Health Darrell Gale has advised local residents, pointing that there is “no relaxation of Tier 4 rules on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, and gathering with other people to see in the New Year would risk spreading the virus even faster.”

The whole of East Sussex became subject to the harshest restrictions currently available on Boxing Day, when Eastbourne, Lewes and Wealden joined Hastings and Rother in Tier 4 as new coronavirus cases continue to escalate fast.

And when the government’s planned review of tier allocations took place on 30 December, it resulted in the Midlands, North-East and parts of the North-West and South-West also being consigned to Tier 4, and most of the rest of the country to Tier 3.

Despite the restrictive measures infections are still rising fast, not least as the new strain of Covid-19 makes its presence increasingly felt outside London, the South East and East of England where it first made an impact. Daily cases in the UK exceeded 50,000 for the first time on 30 December. Many public health experts have called for the imposition of a complete national lockdown to put a brake on the virus’s progress.

In the South East, as the main graph shows, the new variant has become dominant and is infecting an increasing number of victims. According to the Office for National Statistics, the new variant was responsible for an estimated 72% of cases testing positive in the week beginning 21 December.

Hastings cases above 1,000

In Hastings new cases on a seven-day basis passed 1,000 per 100,000 population in the days leading up to Christmas – that is, more than one per cent of the borough’s population. On 30 December, the rate had fallen back to 949.7 (though the most recent figures are subject to revision).

Hastings is well head of the other lower tier East Sussex authorities. Next comes Rother, with a rate of 628.6 on 30 December, followed by Eastbourne (513.8), Lewes (420.3) and Wealden (416.8). While the rates for Hastings and Rother were both down on the previous day, elsewhere they rose, notably in Eastbourne (up 196.6) and Lewes 135.6.

The rate for East Sussex as a whole was 560.6, also rising and well above the rate for England of 396.9. This picture no doubt influenced the decision to move the whole of the county into Tier 4.

Fatalities

The number of fatalities in Hastings is also on the increase. The graph above of excess deaths – over and above the 2015-19 average – shows regular occurrences due to Covid-19 in recent weeks. Public Health England’s measure of deaths of people within 28 days of returning a positive test result reports 10 for 30 December, making a total of 52 since the virus first appeared.

For Rother the figures are 15 and a total of 156.

“I know we’re all keen to see the back of 2020, but no one wants to start 2021 in hospital,” said Darrell Gale.

“Please make sure you don’t gather with anyone you don’t live with – you’d be risking their health as well as your own.  Even if you feel fine, we should remember that one in three people who carry their virus have no symptoms so they may not even be aware they’re infected.”

Hopes of overcoming the virus rest on the widespread vaccination of the population – this will gather pace when the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which has just been approved, becomes available next week.

Since vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech product began on 8 December, 786,000 had received a jab by 27 December, the NHS reported. Two thirds of these were people aged 80 or over.

New graphic window on Covid-19

As from 1 January 2021 Russell Hall will post a series of daily updated graphs illustrating the main parameters of the coronavirus – number of infections, hospital activity, deaths – on the HOT Facebook page.

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Posted 15:45 Thursday, Dec 31, 2020 In: Covid-19

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