Health chiefs’ stark warning despite slowdown in cases

Coronavirus is not over and people across the Black Country and Staffordshire should continue to take rapid virus tests twice-weekly, health chiefs have urged.

Experts have issued the warning as virus infection rates remain high across the region – but are either showing signs of slowing down or falling week-on-week.

It comes as more than 170 Covid-19 patients are being treated in hospitals in the Black Country and Staffordshire with numbers steadily increasing, figures show.

Councillor Jasbir Jaspal, Wolverhampton Council's cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, said: "Despite restriction easing last week, Covid has not gone away.

"We are seeing high numbers of positive cases across the city and nationally, and these are expected to rise further as the potential impact of the unlocking of restrictions may not have yet been felt.

"Even after full vaccination there is still the possibility that you may be infected with Covid-19. With one in three cases not showing any symptoms but still able to pass it on to others, it is important that we all keep testing regularly in order to protect the people around us."

Meanwhile health chiefs in Staffordshire say the number of Covid cases across the county fall by more than 400 overall 3,815 in the week to July 22, which marked the first weekly drop since the end of May.

But they warned the number of people being tested also feel and it may explain the reduction in cases. Dr Richard Harling, Staffordshire County Council’s director for health and care, said he is "cautiously optimistic" about the latest figures but says there can be no relaxation around personal responsibility, testing and vaccination.

He said: "Cases appear to be falling, which suggests that things could be moving in the right direction. However, it’s too early to be sure. There are still a lot of people being infected and hospitalisations are rising, albeit slowly. It remains as important as ever that everyone in Staffordshire continues taking sensible precautions to bring cases down."

Dr Johnny McMahon, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet support member for public health and integrated care, added: "Thank you to everyone who is taking personal responsibility and doing the right thing for themselves, their family and friends, and their community. Please continue your efforts to limit the spread of the virus. Remember ‘Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air’, keep testing, and get vaccinated as soon as you can.

"Maintain a degree of social distancing and, if you are meeting friends and family, meet outside rather than indoors where possible. Face coverings are important on public transport and in crowded places, and it is worth carrying a face covering with you as some businesses may require you to wear one."

Official NHS England data revealed 177 people were being treated in hospitals in the region by 8am on July 20 – up from 136 on the same day the week before.

It comes as the number of virus patients hospitalised nationally almost trebled in the last four weeks with 3,894 people with Covid in hospital as of July 20.

Staff at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, which runs New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton, were caring for 26 people on July 20 – up from 19 the week before.

There were only five beds occupied by Covid-19 patients four weeks ago in the hospital trust. The figures also show that 43 new Covid patients were admitted to hospital in The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust in the week to July 18. This was up from 26 in the previous seven days.

Staff at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Sandwell General Hospital and Birmingham City Hospital, were caring for 65 patients on July 20 – up from 62 the same day the previous week.

The number of beds at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust occupied by people who tested positive for Covid-19 more than doubled in the last four weeks – 28 days ago, there were 25.

The figures also show that 88 new Covid patients were admitted to hospital in Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust in the week to July 18. This was up from 61 in the previous seven days.

Staff at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Walsall Manor Hospital, were caring for 17 Covid-19 patients on July 20 – up from nine on the same day the previous week.

There were five beds occupied by Covid-19 patients four weeks ago in Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust. The figures also show that 30 new Covid patients were admitted to hospital in Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust in the week to July 18. This was up from 12 in the previous seven days.

Staff at The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Russells Hall Hospital, were caring for 23 coronavirus patients – up from 15 compared to the week before.

There were seven beds occupied by Covid-19 patients four weeks ago in The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust. The figures also show that 27 new Covid patients were admitted to hospital in The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust in the week to July 18. This was up from 21 in the previous seven days.

University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, which runs Stafford's County Hospital and Royal Stoke University Hospital, were caring for 46 patients on July 20 – up from 31 the previous week.

There were five beds occupied by Covid-19 patients four weeks ago in the hospital trust. The figures also show that 64 new Covid patients were admitted to hospital in University Hospitals Of North Midlands NHS Trust in the week to July 18. This was up from 38 in the previous seven days.

Across England there were 3,894 people in hospital with Covid as of July 20, with 544 of them in mechanical ventilation beds. The number of Covid-19 patients hospitalised nationally almost trebled in the last four weeks, while the number on mechanical ventilators more than doubled, increasing by 140 per cent.

It comes after visiting was suspended by the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and the Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust as cases of the virus "increased substantially in the community".

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