19 August 2020 22:34
Birmingham has been in the spotlight after infection rates rose across the city, with 330 new cases in a week setting alarm bells ringing. For the first time since lockdown measures eased, Birmingham has seen the number of new positive cases consistently going up. Health, business and political leaders have now joined forces to press people to do more to avert the potential 'disaster' of new lockdown measures. But while the number of positive test results are going up, the city's hospitals and GPs are not seeing a corresponding rise in people getting seriously ill. We posed the question that plenty of people are asking on social media and in communities: If people are not getting ill, or dying, from coronavirus right now, why is the city contemplating new restrictions?
This evening's data (published by NHS Digital), drawing on confirmed new cases up to August 17 (Monday) is encouraging - it shows the infection rate is now at under 30 - that's 30 new cases a week, per 100,000 people in the city. That's the equivalent of more than 300 new infections in the past week, and is the highest since the pandemic eased off in early May. So we are some way shy of a crisis of that level - but public health officials want to ensure the issues linked to infection are nipped in the bud, and with it the spectre of national intervention of the type seen in Greater Manchester. On Monday, Dr Justin Varney, public health director for Birmingham, said: "What we have been seeing over the past two weeks is a consistent rise. Since coronavirus first appeared in the city in early March, thousands of lives have been lost, in hospitals, care homes and at home. The hospital trusts could not officially provide today's figures about the number of Coronavirus patients receiving critical care but reliable sources said the total across both trusts was 'less than five'. Dr Ron Daniels, an intensive care doctor at hospitals in the city for University Hospitals Birmingham, said the number of critically ill people has continued to be negligible, with zero deaths reported for days - and says that this is the measure that should determine what happens next. Dr Daniels spoke up in frustration after seeing coverage about rising infection rates in the city. But there are no deaths, and very few people becoming critically ill, even five weeks after lockdown measures were eased," he said. He said he believed illness would by now be filtering through to hospitals if the virus was prevalent and as vicious as in the early months of the pandemic. If there are so many people with active cases of the virus, we would be starting to see some now presenting (in hospital) with serious illness, but we are not. He said today: "I think there needs to be a balance between the highly cautious approach of public health specialists and the levels of sickness we are seeing. "People have been saying to me - just wait two weeks, then you'll see a difference - they said it around the Black Lives Matter protests, around pubs and shops reopening, around other events, and what we are seeing is more people testing positive but not the illness itself. "We are also having people present with severe illnesses that they should have come in to hospital with much sooner, but they are delaying getting medical help still. "The majority of new cases are in 20 to 40 year olds - but we are seeing spread to older adults in households and we do not know how many individuals who are clinically vulnerable may also be put at risk by this rise in cases. "There is also consideration of the percentage of positive test results, alongside an increase in testing and a rise in cases in high risk settings such as workplaces and care homes. He said today: "I'm not here to criticise another medical colleague, and am pleased to note Dr Daniels still fully supports all the public health preventative measures such as social distancing. "I fully support the current action being taken by our local Public Health teams, both within Sandwell and Birmingham. News and updates on the world of politics seemed to become much more important than ever during the coronavirus pandemic as we waited for news of the Government's responses to the crisis and how it affected our daily lives. There's also all the news from Birmingham City Council and other Midlands authorities on housing, education, bin collections, roads, transport, public health and so much more. "The latest figures within the Black Country and West Birmingham show a 25% increase in cases this week compared to last week, which was itself around 25% higher than the week before. "As this group is less likely to have other concurrent illness, this helps to explain why, very fortunately, there has not yet been any significant increase in people presenting either to their GP or local hospital. "From a clinical perspective, I fully support the current public health measures. "We do need to remain cautious, in order to suppress the number of new cases, and to prevent our higher risk patients, both at home and within care homes, from becoming infected. With cases still rising locally I feel the current cautious approach is the correct course of action."