Peterborough’s early winter COVID battle saw ‘real benefits’ - but Omicron bringing ‘new challenges’
Peterborough’s early winter battle against COVID - where the city was given ‘enhanced response area status (ERA)’ to drive down cases and increase vaccination rates - saw plenty of benefits. But now the city faces a new challenge in Omicron, which has once again seen cases soaring and hospitalisations continuing to rise.
Peterborough was one of a handful of areas across the country to be granted ERA status on November 1 - a move welcomed by health chiefs in the city.
At the time, the city had one of the lowest vaccine rates in the country, and throughout much of 2021, had seen some of the highest case rates.
As a result of being granted the status, extra resources were made available to target areas which had seen low jab rates, and to break transmission chains in schools.
The status was originally expected to last just a month, but it was extended to finish on Christmas Eve - by which point the city, like the rest of the country, was dealing with the more transmissible Omicron variant.
A few weeks after the status was removed, a Peterborough City Council spokesman said being given the status had provided a number of benefits to the city.
The spokesman said; “The number of cases and hospitalisations in Peterborough at the end of last year was high and the ERA Status meant that we could bring in extra resource to help bring these rates down.
“There were real benefits and these included measures to help break transmission in local schools, where the number cases were a particular concern.
“There was also an extra push to get local communities vaccinated, including talking to local residents on their doorsteps, in the city centre and in schools and we have continued to see improvements in vaccine uptake in Peterborough.
“We also received extra marketing resources such as an Ad Van and social media messages advising local people of the high rates in the city and what they could do to help to lower rates.”
To tackle the rates in schools, enhanced testing and tracing of cases was implemented as was the consistent use of face coverings in communal areas and reduced face to face meetings and on-site events.
In areas where there were low vaccination and high case rates, special activities and events took place - including GP Q&A sessions at local Coffee mornings within Millfield and Central Peterborough.
There was also community engagement activity within Fletton, West Town and Woodston, Paston, Westwood and North Bretton, Bretton Park and Orton Malbourne and Orton Goldhay.
Government statistics show that thousands of jabs were given out during the ERA period.
When the city was granted the status, 139,254 residents (66.7 per cent of the population) had received one jab, 126,035 (60.4 per cent) had received two jabs.
A total of 22,599 (10.8 per cent) had received a third jab - although the booster campaign had only just started,
By December 24, nearly 6,000 more first jabs had been given out, taking the total to 144,902 (69.4 per cent), more than 5,000 second jabs had been given, taking the total to 131,212 (62.9 per cent) and 60,000 third, or booster, jabs had been given, taking the total to 82,477 (39.5 per cent).
However, the vaccination rate in the city remains much lower than the national rate as a whole.
The case rate in the city also initially fell - with the case rate on November 1 of 494.5 cases per 100,000 people being the lowest recorded in the month.
However, it was beaten on December 1, and the case rate started to rise significantly in the middle of the month. The rate on Christmas Eve was nearly double the November 1 rate, standing at 925.8, as Omicron started to become an issue in the city.
The number of people in hospital on December 24 was significantly lower than on November 1. On November 1, there were 104 COVID patients in hospitals run by the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust - but that had fallen to 57 by December 24.
The number of COVID patients on ventilators fell from eight to seven during the period, and there were 21 deaths (within 28 days of a positive COVID test) in Peterborough.
Case rates in the city - as in much of the rest of the country - have continued to rise in recent weeks, and have nearly doubled since Christmas Eve as Omicron sweeps through.
Government data Hospitalisations are also on the rise. There has also been a rise in the number of staff being off ill as they isolate to try and slow the spread of the virus.
The council spokesman said it was ‘more important than ever’ to get a COVID vaccination. He said: “We now have a new challenge in the Omicron variant. This has seen cases rise to their highest levels with hospitalisations increasing and the NHS under pressure. It’s more important than ever to get your covid jabs to protect you and your community and to follow the advice of hands, face, space and good ventilation to reduce the spread of the virus.”