Everything you need to know as Wakefield to be declared 'area of concern' amid rise in Covid-19 cases
Wakefield is once again expected to be declared an 'area of concern' today, after a sharp rise in new cases of Covid-19.
The district had previously been added to the government watchlist in July, after cases spiked, but was removed earlier this month when the rate of cases fell to 11.6 per 100,000.
But cases have now risen sharply again, with the rate of cases standing at 66.6 per 100,000, above the national average of 52.5, and Wakefield Council has warned that the district is likely to be included on the government watchlist later today.
Speaking at a council meeting this afternoon, council leader Denise Jeffery said: "It looks like we should be going into an area of concern later today.
"The situation is very grave. It is getting worse. The cases are rising and we must act now to prevent lives.
"We must play our part to protect each other. If we don't, the harsh reality is there will be more cases, more hospital admissions and more deaths.
"We must follow the rules, otherwise we will face further restrictions like the rest of West Yorkshire."
What is an area of concern?
Under current Public Health England guidelines, local authorities included on the watchlist can be classified as areas of concern, areas for enhanced support or areas of intervention.
Areas of concern are those with high case rates, where local actions, such as increased testing, are in place.
Areas of enhanced support are those deemed to be at medium or high risk, with additional resources, such as mobile testing capacity, provided.
Areas of intervention are those authorities where there is "divergence from the measures in place in the rest of England" - or, in simpler terms, areas in local lockdown.
At present, Leeds, Kirklees, Calderdale and Bradford are all deemed areas of intervention, and local lockdown restrictions are in place.
What are the latest figures for Wakefield?
Latest figures reveal that 600 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the district since the start of September, bringing the total confirmed cases since March to 2,733.
This compares to just 265 confirmed cases in the Month of August, and 260 in July.
There have been at least 343 coronavirus-related deaths at hospitals run by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust since March.
Earlier this week, it was confirmed that schoolchildren and essential workers were to be prioritised for testing under the council's local testing scheme.
Anna Hartley, Director of Public Health for the Wakefield district, said: “The situation in the district has reached a pivotal point – we’ve seen a significant increase in cases and a rise in hospital admissions.
“We all must all take immediate action to protect ourselves and others from the very real threat of COVID-19. If we don’t, we will have much tougher restrictions imposed on our lives, just as we are seeing in neighbouring areas.
“We have stepped up our local community testing programme, increasing the number of daily tests the service can provide from 50 to 70, and drafting in extra staff and phone lines to deal with increased demand.
“If you have symptoms it is vital that you ‘act now’ – self-isolate and get tested. Please do not ignore any symptoms you might have, however mild they may be, as you could be unwittingly spreading the virus to others who are much more vulnerable and at risk of serious effects of the virus, and even death.
“Please do not underestimate the positive impact you can make by following the key safety guidelines and these simple rules: Wear a face covering, if you can, in any enclosed public space; Maintain social distancing, wherever possible; Avoid any hugging or close contact with anyone outside your household; Avoid car sharing with anyone outside your household, if you can; Maintain regular handwashing; Stick to six – no social gatherings of more than six people indoors or outdoors.”
Will there be any new restrictions in place?
Wakefield Council said it was "awaiting confirmation" of any new restrictions which may be introduced.
Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery said: “It is crucial that everyone must act now and follow the important guidance in place. We all need to play our part to protect not only ourselves, but all of those around us, from this virus.
"If we don’t, the harsh reality is that it will affect others, causing more infections, more hospital admissions and inevitably and sadly more deaths.
“With such a serious increase in cases, tighter lockdown measures will soon be unavoidable unless we all continue play our part.
"So I urge everyone to please remember the simple steps of hand washing regularly, wearing a face covering, maintaining social distancing and limiting our contact with those outside of our household.”
Anyone displaying coronavirus symptoms – of a new continuous cough, high temperature or loss of taste or smell - is urged to get a test by accessing local testing or by visiting nhs.uk/coronavirus or calling 119.