New virus strain 'out of control' on coast as lockdown 3 lands

Carl Smith

Great Yarmouth Borough Council leader Carl Smith has hailed the Town Deal vision as "a chance of a lifetime." - Credit: Archant

Borough council leader Carl Smith barely pauses for breath when asked about the situation in Great Yarmouth and what is to be done about it.

The Great Yarmouth borough's weekly infection rate is now the worst in Norfolk as it moves past 500 cases per 100,000 for the first time, having almost doubled in a week.

In a grim start to the year, January 1, 2021, saw five deaths - the joint highest death rate in a single day - equalled previously on three days in April last year and one in May.

There were 16 deaths in the seven days leading up to New Year's Day at the James Paget University Hospital - the highest is 23 in the week leading up to April 14.

Overall 179 people have died with the virus at the Gorleston site during the pandemic - the least out of all the county's three main hospitals.

Mr Smith said the virus was "out of control" and appealed to people to follow the rules under lockdown 3 announced by Boris Johnson on Monday night and wear facemasks at all times, even - as a belt-and-braces measure - outside.

But there was no traceable source or outbreak - just a hugely virulent new strain behind the rise in infections, he said.

Mr Smith could not say with any certainty that people had become blase about the rules but there was "disappointment" at being "back to where we were in March" despite a major intervention in October.

As of December 29 there were 50 patients being treated for the virus at the JPUH, four of whom were in high dependency beds - the peak in the first wave was 79 on April 11.

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The figures show there is still capacity with 11.7pc of adult acute and general beds occupied by confirmed Covid patients.

Mr Smith said: "We do not know where we are catching it.

"But people have got to use common sense like they did in October.

Great Yarmouth was virtually devoid of activity following Boris Johnson's instruction to the nation

Great Yarmouth was virtually devoid of activity following Boris Johnson's instruction to the nation to stay inside to prevent the spread of coronavirus Picture: Anthony Carroll - Credit: Archant

"The residents of the borough can do it.

"Do not have people for coffee, stay in your own household.

"That is really important and hopefully we can get the numbers down.

"Already we have lost far too many people and we do not want to keep seeing families suffer the  loss of their loved ones, and take the strain off the NHS.

"It is no longer a question of what is behind  the spread it is just this virus and how it is.

"It affects anyone of any age.

"Our numbers were going down last week and have suddenly shot  up, it is  just  how the new variant is spreading across the community.

"'All we ask is that people do as they are told. The general spread is in the general population - that is what makes this strain more potent.

"Hopefully we will see a difference in three to four weeks.

And with mask wearing becoming more normal in outdoor spaces too Mr Smith said it could be an added precaution worth taking.

Circus impresario Peter Jay said he supported the lockdown, adding: "It just has to be done."

The 77-year-old has only been out a handful of times since March, mainly to show rehearsals,  and was hoping for a vaccination soon.

He said: "They had to do something. There was a bit of dithering going on ."

He added he was fed up with political sniping between parties when they should be pulling together.

The JPUH confirmed it was "very busy" and seeing rising infection rates.

Deputy chief operating officer Nicola Cottington said: “It has been very busy at our hospital, both during and after the New Year break.

"Infection rates are rising both locally and nationally and we are seeing increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients, which is why it is so important for everyone to follow the latest national guidance to the letter, at all times, and to keep socially distancing, wearing face masks and washing hands.”

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