Doubling of new variant Covid cases expected in Luton this week

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A doubling of new variant Covid cases is expected in Luton this week, a meeting heard.

And the Indian variant now accounts for 92 per cent of all cases in the town, the borough council's health and wellbeing board was told.

"We had among the highest case rates in the country at 100 per 100,000 two months ago," said director of public health Lucy Hubber.

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"This dropped to 28 per 100,000 a couple of weeks ago. Around this time of our lowest point we began to hear about the impact of what we now call the delta variant, first identified in India.

Coronavirus     (stock image)Coronavirus     (stock image)
Coronavirus (stock image)

"At that time we were about 95 per cent the alpha variant, known previously as the Kent variety.

"We're at 92 per cent the delta [Indian] variant as of yesterday (Thursday), so that's a really big shift in a very short period of time.

"We're still learning about this new variant," she warned. "It grabs hold very quickly in some places, such as Bedford, Bolton and Blackburn, leading to high case rates.

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"There've been a large number of cases in other places, but not a big increase in case rates, and we're trying to understand what that dynamic is.

"In Luton we've seen in the last week a big increase in our case rates and we expect to see a doubling within a week.

"So quite a worrying position from a relatively low baseline and not what we wanted to see.

"Some of that will be this new variant and some from opening up with the lifting of lockdown we've experienced.

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"In response to the variant, as soon as we were notified of cases, we stood up a variant and mutation outbreak management cell which met daily and reviewed each and every case.

"Sometimes that was contact tracing, otherwise by doing targeted testing either for a specific setting or a geographic area," she added.

"The good news is that we've continued to see a decline in hospitalisations and deaths.

"That's a national picture and it does feel as though nationally vaccination has really begun to have an impact on these increasing case rates in terms of severity and mortality."

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Vaccination figures in Luton fall below what would be hoped for, according to Ms Hubber, with a relatively low first dose compared to other unitary authorities.

"And that does mean our population is more vulnerable," she said. "I'm sure you'll have heard the plea of the council leader to have surge vaccination in Luton.

"I firmly believe that would make a significant difference in both transmission and illness."

She referred to other harms with Covids, such as education, and people's ability to work and bring in income, saying: "With deprivation and inequalities in Luton, it can have a huge and disproportionate impact compared to other areas.

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"Keeping case rates down is still really important. We're redoubling our message about the importance of hands, space, face.

"And we're trying to make testing as easy as possible, with good options for anyone who is symptomatic.

"We're working closely with the BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group to ensure once the surge vaccination in Bedford is completed we can rapidly bring those benefits to Luton."

Asked about hospitalisations locally, she replied the current figure is less than ten with none in critical care.

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