The overall trend of Covid-19 cases is dropping in Cambridgeshire despite a perceived increase caused by a change in reporting methods, the director of public health for the county has said.
Dr Liz Robin told Cambridgeshire County Council’s health committee on Thursday, July 9 that “our overall trends in cases are downwards” and the county is in a “reasonably positive position”. Although she added: “Clearly with the release of social distancing measures we are watching very carefully.”
The “most important thing” for preventing a second spike will be residents’ behaviour, she said.
The methodology for reporting positive cases changed on July 2, so that now cases not previously attributed to a specific location have been added in.
As of July 6, the county council area had recorded a total of 2,193 cases. The cumulative infection rate was 336.6 per 100,000 resident population.
There had been 318 cases recorded in Cambridge, 191 in East Cambridgeshire, 469 in Fenland, 872 in Huntingdonshire and 343 in South Cambridgeshire.
Dr Robin said: “We do have a lot more information and it is quite a big change, so I wanted to reassure you that it is not because we have had a jump in cases, it’s just because the recording has changed.
“Cambridgeshire’s position in a sense hasn’t changed that much, we haven’t had a sudden jump to the bottom or top of the league table, we are still sort of below average overall.”
She said Huntingdonshire’s figures are above the national average, but she said the infection rate is still falling.
Dr Robin said a higher infection rate in Huntingdonshire and Fenland compared with the rest of the county council area is a change from the beginning of the pandemic where Cambridge and East Cambridgeshire had more cases. “It does move round geographically,” she said.
She said: “Absolutely like the other districts, Huntingdonshire has peaked and has now come down, so it is very much down on where it was.”
Dr Robin could not say more specifically where in Huntingdonshire the cases have been, but said there had been a “strong link” with health and social care settings, adding there has been “a big decrease” in those settings in Huntingdonshire.
Asked about a second spike in the county, Dr Robin said prevention will depend on how residents behave.
She said: “That is very dependent on how people behave, and I can’t come to a committee without saying that it is our residents who will make the difference.
“With the relaxation in lockdown measures, we have to keep those key messages – about hygiene, social distancing, two metres if you can, mitigations if it’s one metre, go for a test if you have symptoms and self-isolate, follow the instructions if the contact tracers contact you.
“There are some core things that are going to make all the difference and whatever we do with our outbreak control team, it’s going to be how the residents behave to prevent further spread that is the most important thing.”
Concerns have been raised nationally that directors of public health and their staff have not had access to all the information needed to best understand the pandemic’s impact in their area.
Asked if she and her team have the right information to coordinate the county’s response to the pandemic, Dr Robin said: “It’s greatly improved, we still haven’t got everything that we want.”
She added: “It’s a great improvement on, say, three weeks ago or a month ago.”
The committee also heard an update from the NHS, with Jan Thomas, the accountable officer for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group and the health gold command for the county’s pandemic, addressing the meeting.
She said the county’s health service “overall has done really quite well through this experience that none of us would ever choose to have”.
She said that at no point has the county run out of clinical care beds.
“Although referrals for cancer services did drop,” she said, “there was a maintenance of critical services as well”.
“Overall, I think it has been unprecedented,” she said. “I’m quite proud of the way Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has reacted, and I think that’s down to how the public have been communicated with.”
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She said “all the services have leaned in” and said “we should feel very lucky” to have “excellent world-leading hospitals like Addenbrooke’s and Papworth,” which she said helped support hospitals across the county.
She also said that there has been unprecedented demand on the 111 service.