Over the last couple of months, Knowsley has topped the table of places in the UK with the highest infection rates, was one of the first places in the country to enter “Tier 3”, has seen testing capacity increase, has watched virus rates fall, and entered into the second national lockdown. The situation changes every day and it can be difficult to keep up with the actual local position at any given time.
So where are we now? And what next for Knowsley? Here’s a quick update.
What’s happening to our rates?
In recent weeks, there’s been a consistent and steady reduction in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Knowsley.
From the worst point in early October 2020, when the 7 day positive cases rate per 100,000 reached an alarming 740 per 100,000 population, our most recent figures now indicate that the rate of infection in our communities has come down to 232 cases per 100,000 (7 day rate up to 16 November).
Furthermore, we have undertaken additional calculations to identify the impact of increased testing arising from the Liverpool mass testing pilot. Specifically, if we look at our rates without the additional cases coming through from the Liverpool pilot, then our “underlying” rate is even lower – approximately 155 per 100,000 (7 day rate up to 16 November). This gives us reassurance that we are continuing to see a steady reduction in cases.
While the Tier 3 and lockdown measures are having a positive impact, these rates are still higher than we want them to be and the virus is still prevalent in our communities. But we are in a considerably better position than we were at the start of October, and, with increases in testing capacity, we are in a much stronger place to be able to get better control over this virus.
We have shown twice now that we can reduce infection levels. The way to continue to do that is to continue to take every precaution and stick closely to the guidance – this will avoid infection and protect our loved ones. The efforts of everyone who has been sticking with the rules whilst the Borough was under Tier 3 and now under the national lockdown measures are paying off. It shows that we can make a difference by all playing our part – we need to continue doing just that.
What has been the impact of mass testing in Liverpool?
Although the testing pilot in Liverpool does not extend to Knowsley, we know that some of our residents have been tested as part of the pilot scheme.
So far, the data suggests that there are 158 such positive cases in Knowsley where residents have self-selected ‘Liverpool mass testing’ as a reason for a test. In addition to this there have been 66 positive cases from Knowsley residents that had a Lateral Flow Test (LFT) kit used by the Liverpool mass testing. In the last 14 days these additional cases account for approximately 30% of cases.
These individuals, who were asymptomatic at the time of testing, are now self-isolating meaning that there are fewer people potentially spreading the virus in our communities unknowingly.
So, whilst the mass testing programme may appear to push up the rates in Knowsley in the short-term (by about a quarter, so far), in the long-term it will help to reduce rates by removing positive cases from situations where they may be unintentionally passing the virus on.
How are our hospitals coping?
There is some good news here as well. The number of High Dependency Unit/Intensive Therapy Unit beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients across Merseyside has decreased over the past week and there are some positive indications that the number of hospital admissions are beginning to level off too.
However, caution is needed. Hospitals are entering a time when pressure on their services is usually at its greatest, with the impact of seasonal illnesses such as flu and norovirus. The pressure in our hospitals is still great and, for that reason, hospital capacity remains a major concern and something that everyone involved in the local response is watching closely.
What will happen on 2 December 2020?
The second national lockdown will officially end on 2 December 2020, but the Government has yet to confirm what will happen after that date. There is lots of speculation about what will happen, what tiers or restrictions might be in place – all of which is not based on any facts and is therefore unhelpful. In our conversations with the Government, they have suggested that local areas across the country could be “placed” into tiers or levels – beyond that, we do not know what tier we might be placed in or how that decision is going to be taken. Clearly, however, Knowsley is in a better position now than we were in mid-October when we went into “Tier 3”, and there are other areas of the country where virus levels are now significantly higher than they are in Knowsley.
In preparation for December and to ensure that we are in the best possible position when we exit lockdown, we have been working with our City Region colleagues to collect and present our current data to the Government and assure them of our progress and our suitability to be considered as a place where fewer restrictions may be needed. We have already submitted extensive documentation and we will continue to lobby on behalf of Knowsley and the City Region with the aim of exiting lockdown in a better position than we were when this started.
In the meantime, we all have to keep playing our part and following the rules to help drive down our rates.
We will keep the public updated as soon as we know more.
What we are doing is working – we must keep going
Councillor Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said:
“It’s really encouraging to see that rates reducing – it shows that the efforts and sacrifices of everyone are paying off.
“There are reasons to be optimistic – but we cannot be in any way complacent. We still have another two weeks of national lockdown to go before decisions will be taken about which Tier we will emerge into. If we can hold strong, we can drive down the rates even further, which will put us in the best possible position going into December.
“I want to thank everyone who is doing their bit – please, please – keep going. You are making a difference and helping to save lives.”