Covid still rising in one in five areas as Jonathan Van-Tam warns ‘we haven’t won battle yet’

Figures still ‘quite sobering’, says deputy chief medical officer

Samuel Osborne@SamuelOsborne93
Friday 26 February 2021 18:05
Covid still rising in 1 in 5 areas as JVT warns 'we haven't won battle yet'

Covid-19 cases are still rising in one in five local authority areas in England, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock told a Downing Street press conference on Friday that “this isn’t over yet” as he pointed to figures showing the recent fall in case numbers was now slowing and has flattened in some areas of the country.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, presented what he called "quite sobering" slides showing a rise in coronavirus cases in some parts of the country and said “this is not a battle that we have won yet”.

He said the slides showed that there “were quite a few areas of the UK that are burning quite hot”, including in the Midlands and the west coast of England.

"Although it is generally good news, I'm afraid it is better news in some places than it is in others and this is not a battle that we have won yet," Prof Van-Tam said.

"In some parts of the UK, case rates are changing, albeit slowly, in the wrong direction.

"This is not a good sign and reinforces the fact that I'm afraid this battle at the moment is not won."

Dr Susan Hopkins said regional differences in coronavirus case rates are due to differences in occupations.

The senior medical adviser at Public Health England told the press conference: "We are looking into detail at the differences in the regions. Some of the differences we see relate to the occupations and workplaces."

Prof Van-Tam said Britons could not afford to let their guard down and “take your foot off the brake” by relaxing adherence to social distancing rules by meeting relatives and friends.

“We are not yet collectively as a country in the right place,” he warned. “All the rules still apply until we are in a much safer place.

“It’s a bit like being 3-0 up in a game and saying ‘We can’t lose this’. But how many times have you seen the other side come back and win 4-3?

“Do not wreck this now. We are so close.”

Prof Van-Tam urged all those who had received the first dose of their vaccination to continue following the rules.

He said: "Much as it is encouraging and much as I am upbeat about vaccines, and how they are going to change how we live and what the disease is like between now and the summer, there is a long way to go.

"And my inbox in the last week has been besieged with people writing in saying, I've had the vaccine, essentially, ‘Can I now start to break the rules?’

"’Can I go and see my grandchildren and do X, Y and Z?’ And the answer to that is no.

"We are not yet collectively, as a country, in the right place."

Prof Van-Tam continued: "All the patients that I vaccinate ... I say to them, 'Remember, all the rules still apply to you and all of us until we're in a much safer place'. It doesn't change because you've had your first dose of vaccine.

"And so, please don't be tempted to think, 'Well, one home visit might be alright now the weather is getting better, gonna be a nice weekend - one small gathering in your house won't really matter'.

"I'm afraid it does and the data on the slides speak for themselves.

"So my key message tonight is look, this is all going very well but there are some worrying signs that people are relaxing, taking their foot off the brake at exactly the wrong time."

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