Covid Christmas sees infection rates double in one week in much of West Midlands

The coronavirus infection rate more than doubled in parts of the Black Country in just seven days over Christmas, new figures show.

The rapid spread caused by the Omicron variant has seen the number of new positive cases leap across the region.

In the West Midlands as a whole, the infection rate reached 1,623 cases per 100,000 people on January 1 - an increase of 71.8 per cent on the week before.

But in some boroughs in the Black Country and Staffordshire the increase was even more dramatic.

The highest increase was in Wolverhampton, where the infection rate increased by 115 per cent to 1,977.3.

But the highest rate in the region was in Cannock Chase, where it reached 2,218.1 after an increase of 103 per cent.

In Walsall the rate also more than doubled - from 880.3 on Christmas Day to 1,793 on New Year's Day - and in Dudley the infection rate increased by 99 per cent from 990.2 to 1,969.8.

In Sandwell the rate went up by 89 per cent, from 902.6 on December 25 to 1,705.9

The increase was less exaggerated in Birmingham - where the rate went up by 51.6 per cent to 1,432.8 - and in Stafford where it rose by 55 per cent to 1,846.1.

As a result, public health bosses are warning residents to do all they can due to slow the spread.

Children returned to schools in a staggered start this week but health bosses say it is too early to assess the impact Covid has had on attendance.

Stephen Gunther, Walsall’s director of public health said: “The rapid spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, has resulted in the highest infection rates that Walsall has seen at any time during the pandemic.

“Between 26 December 2021 and 1 January 2022, 5,041 residents had a confirmed positive test result. The rate of positive cases has doubled in just seven days across the borough.

“Now more than ever we need to continue to do all we can to reduce the spread of the virus.

“Wear face coverings, social distance, good hand hygiene and let in fresh air. If you feel unwell, please stay at home and book a PCR test as soon as you can.

“Get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible, manage down your social contacts to reduce your risks of having to self-isolate and please continue to take a lateral flow test regularly.”

Despite the rising number of infections, there is unlikely to be a surge in the number of severe Omicron cases and deaths, an expert has said.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said that while there is no definite severing between the number of Covid infections and hospital admissions, there has been a break between the number of cases and severe outcomes.

Sir David, chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge, said: “The big severing is between really severe outcomes and that there’s still no sign of a serious increase in intensive care, and ventilation, and in deaths.

“We would have expected to see that by now in London and elsewhere – so that is the really reassuring thing.

“I think we can guarantee that over this wave, as we endure the next few weeks, what we’re not going to see is a big surge in very severe outcomes.

Meanwhile, people are also being urged to only order enough lateral flow tests they need for households.

Mr Gunther said: “The Government announced on January 11 people in England who test positive for Covid-19 on a lateral flow test will no longer need to have a PCR test to confirm the result. They are required to self-isolate.

“The temporary suspension of the confirmatory testing is because of the high rates of Covid-19. We can be confident that if a person tests positive using a lateral flow device they have the virus.

“It is important that everyone reports their result on the government website, after which they will be contacted by contact tracers.

“Lateral flow tests can be ordered online or by calling 119. Residents should request a collection code online to allow them to pick up from a local pick-up point.

“We ask everyone to be considerate when requesting, in only taking as many as they need for their household.”

Walsall reporting by Gurdip Thandi, Local Democracy Reporter.

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