CORONAVIRUS: Bristol health boss says ‘Covid peak to come’
Christina Gray outside Bristol City Hall on November 26. Source: Amanda Cameron.
Bristol is still weeks away from a peak in Covid cases, according to the city’s public health director.
Christina Gray said the latest wave of infection spread out from London and has hit the South West but the picture in the capital offers some hope – the high rates have been “decoupled” from the level of hospitalisations and severe illness.
She said that was thanks to people changing their behaviour and getting vaccinated.
In Bristol nearly 1,500 in every 100,000 people are infected, while North Somerset is just over 1,000 and South Gloucestershire is around 1,200.
Ms Gray told Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group leaders on January 4: “Those are extremely high rates. In Bristol we’ve had almost 7,000 positive cases in the last seven days.
“What we are seeing reflects what was seen in London – high rates but less severe harms.
“There’s certainly been a decoupling of the rate compared to hospitalisation and severe illness. We’ve absolutely seen that.
“That’s for two reasons – people are vaccinated, and people have adapted their behaviours.
“There’s been a huge and public pivot to adapt behaviours. Everybody knows what to do and the majority want to take actions that will keep themselves and others safe.
“If predictions are correct we aren’t yet at the peak and won’t be for two to three weeks.
“We’re going to have to brace for three to four weeks before we’re up and out of this.”
Ms Gray said the vaccination programme remains important and health services are targeting areas across the region where uptake has been low.
“We’ve seen more people come forward for their first vaccinations but Bristol is still lagging behind on first, second and third doses, behind England. We aren’t taking our foot off the gas,” she said.
“We’ll be continuing to encourage people to come forward in a no-blame way. People have very considered reasons and fears why they are hesitant. We need to be listening and engaging in the dialogue as much as we can.”
CCG chief executive Julia Ross said the Christmas period had been particularly difficult and the NHS faced large workforce challenges as people had to self-isolate.
The two hospital trusts in Bristol have declared “internal critical incidents”.
Ms Ross told the CCG’s governing body: “We’re not expecting things to get any easier over the next few weeks.
“Indeed, our modelling would suggest we might be expecting a spike of Covid activity as a result of Omicron in the middle of January.
“We’re busy putting in place a range of mitigations for that eventuality. Those mitigations range from additional acute capacity through to changing the ways we do things like opening up more virtual capacity in the community, having more hospital at home type services and extending our use of voluntary sector partners.”
Words: Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter
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