Virus infection rates continuing to point in the right direction

Virus infection rates across the West Midlands are starting to return to levels last seen at the end of the summer in 2020.

New figures provide an encouraging picture of a region coming out of the pandemic thanks to lockdown measures and vaccinations.

There is still concern that new variants, combined with the opening up of society, will start to push up levels again.

But currently all indicators provide hope that we can enjoy a relatively normal summer, with infection rates, hospital admission rates and death rates all showing a sustained fall.

Only Coventry in our region shows a rise in rates, and that is only a marginal increase.

There is still work to do, and much of the West Midlands remains well above the national average rate of 18 per 100,000. There are also signs of a rise in rates in other parts of the country – a trend that many experts believe will spread to other areas because of the easing of lockdown.

Experts will be watching carefully in future weeks to see if any rise in virus rates has an impact in hospital admissions and deaths.

Vaccinations

It is hoped that the vaccination programme, which is now seeing 45-50-year-olds being invited for a jab, has broken the link between infections and deaths.

Around 33 million have now had their first vaccination and more than 10 million have had both jabs.

One concern is that new variants, including the new one discovered in India, will manage to spread. It is not yet known how effective current vaccinations are against those variants.

The rates refer to the seven days to April 15. More recent days have been avoided because of problems with collating the data.

Of the 315 local areas in England, 117 – or 37 per cent have seen a rise in case rates and 186 – or 59 per cent – have seen a fall. Twelve are unchanged.

Luton has the highest rate in England, with 195 new cases recorded in the seven days to April 15 – the equivalent of 91.5 cases per 100,000 people. This is up slightly from 84.5 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to April 8.

Doncaster has the second highest rate, up very slightly from 79.2 to 80.5, with 251 new cases. Bradford has the third highest rate, down slightly from 84.5 to 74.1, with 400 new cases.

The area with the biggest week-on-week rise is Cambridge, up from 19.2 to 45.7.

The list has been calculated based on Public Health England data.

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