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Reasons to be hopeful even as figures increase.

Byline: IAN JOHNSON AND IAN JONES Reporters

THE number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 in the UK has risen to its highest level for nearly two months.

A total of 1,378 patients were in hospital on June 20, according to the latest Government figures.

This is up 21% from the previous week, and is the highest since April 29.

It is also up 58% from the 870 patients recorded on May 27, which was the lowest number since the second wave of the virus.

The figures are still well below those recorded at the peak of the second wave, however.

A total of 39,254 Covid-19 patients were in hospital on January 18 - the highest at any point since the pandemic began.

The figures come as the average number of daily reported cases of Covid-19 in the UK topped 10,000 for the first time since late February.

Speaking before the latest figures on hospital patients and cases were announced, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the data was "looking encouraging" for July 19, when coronavirus restrictions are expected to be further eased in England.

"We will watch vigilantly and we will look at the data, in particular at the start of next week," he added.

The UK recorded 11,625 cases of Covid-19 yesterday, and 27 deaths.

At some point in the next week or two, there will likely be more Covid cases in parts of the North East than when England locked down for the second time.

But one leading public health expert has confirmed the jab rollout is - in the North East at least - "breaking the chain" between infection and hospitalisation. South of the Tyne, the rate at Christmas and New Year was - by and large - twice as high at the turn of 2021 than it is now.

North of the Tyne however, and the picture is more gloomy.

In Newcastle and North Tyneside, current Government figures show an infection rate of around 211 cases for every 100,000 residents.

That's higher than it was on Christmas Day, and almost as high as when Boris Johnson announced a second lockdown.

Given that cases are still increasing by up to 90% a week, both should pass that mark this week.

Professor Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health for Newcastle, said yesterday that "these rising infection rates are not resulting in any rapid increase in hospitalisations."

However that isn't to say people have stopped going to hospital with Covid. They are, and the rate is increasing -

just at a much slower pace than before.

Data extracted from the NHS Covid dashboard shows that, over the past week, around 31 people needed to go to hospital with Covid. However, that is across the whole of the North East and Yorkshire.

At the January 19 peak there were 492 admissions a day in that same region.

And in just under two months, that latest figure has only risen by around 50% - much less than the rise in cases.

However, given there is delays of a couple of weeks usually between infection and hospitalisation, if the cases do exceed the winter mark this week, we should have an idea by the middle of July just how effective the vaccine is at keeping people out of A&E.

Places like Jesmond and Durham City Centre - student hotspots - have seen infection rates rise sharply.

There have also been several outbreaks linked to schools across the North East.

"We know that nearly two thirds of cases are among the largely unvaccinated under-25 age group, and more than half are aged between 15-24," added Prof Milne.

"We also know that these age groups account for much of the mixing that takes place, be that in schools and universities or in social settings.

Young adults are now all eligible for a jab. Assuming most of them take a vaccine, that should start to slow and possibly even slash the infection rate once they have.

Public Health England say two doses of the Pfizer jab are 96% effective against hospitalisation while both doses offer enormous levels of protection against the virus.

CAPTION(S):

Director of Public Health at Newcastle City Council Eugene Milne
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Author:IAN JOHNSON AND IAN JONES Reporters
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 23, 2021
Words:690
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