Council and health chiefs are urging the people of Rotherham to show renewed caution and follow the guidelines to stay safe as the borough’s COVID-19 infection rate more than doubles.
In the space of a week the local rate increased from of 9.8 per 100,000 people to 23.0 per 100,000 people. The current rate is below that of towns and cities where local lockdowns have been imposed, however it is expected that a further rise would see Rotherham back on the Government’s watch list.
The latest data was shared at a meeting of the Rotherham Local Outbreak Engagement Board on Friday 11 September 2020. The increase comes as the Government’s “rule of six” restrictions come into force, banning people from meeting up with more than six people at a time, indoors or outside. Schools, workplaces, COVID-secure weddings and funerals and organised sports are exempt.
Rotherham Council’s Leader and Chair of the Rotherham Local Outbreak Engagement Board, Cllr Chris Read, said after the meeting: “Today we are renewing our call to urge people to follow the advice and keep each other safe. We are doing so now because the rate of infections in the borough has more than doubled in the last week, which in turn was an increase on the week before.
“Over the last couple of months, we have made really good progress, moving from one of the highest infection rates in the country, to dropping below the national average. We have not lost a resident in the borough to COVID for more than a month. That progress has enabled us to begin to reopen many council services. And whilst we are fortunately not yet seeing new cases needing hospitalisation, and of course we very much hope it will remain that way, we know that those cases would not necessarily come through for another few weeks. The latest information shows we cannot afford to be complacent even for a moment.
“It is also important to note that the evidence continues to suggest that COVID-19 cases are appearing in different parts of the borough; they are not limited to any one area. Neither is any particular age group seeming to be most affected. We do need everyone to keep doing their bit to keep Rotherham open.”
The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust’s Deputy Chief Executive, Michael Wright, said: “While Rotherham Hospital has intermittently experienced periods without any COVID-19 positive patients we do expect that we will admit more people who are very sick with COVID-19. As we move into autumn and winter the seasonal pressures of flu will put additional pressures on the system. We urge people to continue to take this pandemic seriously and to follow the guidelines to try to control the virus.
“The fact that Rotherham’s infection rate has more than doubled in the space of seven days is a timely reminder that this terrible disease is still among us and we must all exercise caution for ourselves and consideration for others by wearing a face covering, washing our hands and maintaining a safe two-metre distance where possible.”
The board also heard that the NHS Test and Trace service was struggling to cope with the high number of people seeking tests. While the Local Test Site at Forge Island car park is still operating from 8am-8pm daily, the mobile testing unit at Midland Road is being forced to close when the national laboratories reach their daily capacity.