Newham's Covid-19 case rate 'huge' but there is 'light at end of the tunnel'
- Credit: Ken Mears
The coronavirus case rate in Newham is "huge", but there may be tentative signs the numbers are levelling off.
The rate of cases in the borough hit 1,392 per 100,000 for the period January 3 to 9 - up from 1,362 the week before.
There were 5,072 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Newham during the same period, according to council figures, though "substantial" transmission continues.
Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, said in a meeting on Thursday, January 14: "If we carry on working together as a community, we should get through this.
"We should be driven by optimism. We are a great borough."
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Jason Strelitz, the borough's director of public health, explained there may be some signs numbers may have levelled off.
"But we never really know until we see trends. We have a huge case rate. There is no [place] in the borough where there is not lots and lots of coronavirus.
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"A lot is spread by people that are symptom-free. Ten per cent of people with no symptoms are testing positive," he said.
In Green Street West ward 907 tests were carried out in the week January 3 to 9. Of this number, 37 per cent tested positive - the highest rate in Newham. Up one per cent on the previous week.
Stratford and New Town recorded the highest number of tests (1,442). Of this number, 421 tested positive. The highest number in Newham.
Mr Strelitz warned people need to be "much more disciplined" in following Covid-19 guidance because the new variant is highly transmissible.
The meeting heard it is now "crucial" Newham has a successful vaccination programme with an uptake of jabs wide enough to protect communities.
A "ladder of support" measures is being adopted which includes recruiting volunteers who will act as community champions, helping to bust myths and conspiracy theories about the vaccine.
Vaccination centres at Westfield and in community pharmacies are in the pipeline with 6,000 jabs given to the first eligible cohort - those aged over 80 and health workers.
Newham has a population of 352,000.
On the inoculations roll out, John Rooke from Newham Health and Care Partnership said: "We've had a really strong start, but it's just the beginning."
Mr Rooke warned there were some people who felt "reticent" about having the vaccine in spite of the rigorous process it has been through.
He underlined the importance of taking the vaccine out to marginalised groups, including homeless people, anyone unable to claim benefits because of their immigration status and those with mental health conditions.
Dr Muhammad Naqvi, who chairs Newham Clinical Commissioning Group, added: "It's been a sterling effort so far. We have 25,000 residents that have to be done by the middle of February in Newham.
"We should be able to blow that target out of the water, which should be great for our residents."
He explained that some second doses of the vaccine have been given to the most vulnerable, but described the roll out as "a marathon, not a sprint".
"Residents have been really receptive. Uptake has been great," he said.
Chief executive Adam Sewell Jones said Newham University Hospital remains "hugely busy", and has seen a "huge" number of people needing oxygen support.
The hospital has seen three times as many intensive care patients than it would normally have.
He added that, as with hospitals across the country, each intensive care nurse cares for three patients rather than one.
"We have definitely seen, in the last week and a half, an easing of pressure in our hospital. We still have a massive pressure in intensive care," Mr Sewell Jones said.
Surgery for cancer and cardiac patients is still being done, but people have not been brought in to Newham University Hospital for routine surgeries.
"We do want to get back and address the waiting lists," Mr Sewell Jones said.
Cllr Zulfiqar Ali, cabinet chief for health and adult social care, said: "The numbers are stabilising. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
"But we have a lot of work to do. We need to press ahead with the vaccine."
For information about the help on offer in Newham visit the council website.