This week’s coronavirus column

Published Thursday 10 December 2020 at 9:38

Our Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, Professor Dominic Harrison, has written another column for the Lancashire Telegraph.

Read it here:

The next two national assessments for Lancashire’s Covid tier three rating will be on December 16 and the December 30.

Lancashire, like all the other local authorities across England will be reviewed just before these dates and a decision will be made about who might go up or down the tier ratings. National government will look broadly at five areas: the overall population wide confirmed case data, positivity rates, trends in case rates, over 60s case rates and the state of hospital admissions for people with Covid.

Looking at the Lancashire data we can see a number of trends since lockdown was lifted. By and large most Lancashire local authorities have lower rates now than when they were put into tier three after the national lockdown was lifted on December 2. Some have gone down then plateaued, some risen slightly.

Some of those with the lowest rates on December 2 have seen a slight worsening in some of their indicators; others have seen overall case rates going down but rises in over 60s and under 15-year-olds rates in particular. All areas have generally seen the positivity rate falling – but testing rates have also been falling. Hospitals are very busy but continuing a general slow downward trend in admissions after the peak of the second wave in Lancashire in mid-late November.

It is clear that some of Lancashire’s local authorities – particularly in the north and west of the county may feel they have a strong case now to be put into tier two – for the east and some central local authorities, whilst the picture is improving in some of the key data , they will probably agree it is unlikely they would be candidates for tier 2 on the December 16.

The first decision government will need to make is whether to stick to the larger footprints (e.g. Lancashire County, the whole of Greater Manchester) or allow different tiers to exist across these areas where different risks exist.

Having made that decision, it will be a consideration based on the ‘balanced scorecard’ approach across all of the five areas of risk above. Local authority areas can give their views but unlike the first round of tier assessments (on the October 17), the judgement is not going to be ‘negotiated’ with local authorities– central government will make the call.

My guess is that government are likely to be cautious about relaxing tier ratings for anywhere before Christmas. Although the UK has been rather coy about publishing any modelling of the ‘likely Christmas effects’ on transmission, the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) have not. On the December 4 ECDC published a risk assessment with modelling of the probable Covid transmission impacts of the festive season. This report is very clear that for much of Europe, the relaxations are likely to generate a ‘third wave’ of cases in late January and February.

We all want and deserve a Christmas with our wider families. But just how big a third wave that will generate now depends on how well we all manage those risks in our own homes during the five days of seasonal relaxations.

More practical advice on this will follow soon from both the government and local authorities!

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