Croydon has the joint highest number of new cases of covid-19 in the last seven-day period among London boroughs, as fears grow that Britain may be about to endure a third wave of the pandemic.
The rise in the number of positive tests for coronavirus is strongly linked to the India, or Delta, variant and has seen some scientists call for the government to act now to delay further easing of the lockdown. The next tier of lockdown restrictions is due to be removed on June 21.
The latest figures for cases in London, released overnight for the rolling seven-day period to May 30, show a 32 per cent increase in cases in Croydon compared to the previous period, with a total of 189 new cases reported (the same number as in Lambeth).
That works out at 48.9 cases per 100,000 population in Croydon. At the beginning of May, that rate was 17.6 in Croydon.
Official figures show that the coronavirus variant first identified in India is now dominant across Britain.
Data suggests that this variant, designated the Delta variant by the World Health Organization, is substantially more transmissible than the one first detected in Kent last year. It is also shown that the variant may increase the risk of hospital admissions and that it could even make vaccines less effective, particularly after the first dose.
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, told The Guardian that cases were predominantly in younger age groups still to be vaccinated, so the vaccination rollout was still key. “It would be inconceivable that if case numbers go through the roof that there’s no impact on hospitalisations,” he said.
Once cases start to rise, it takes a few weeks for that to translate into an increase in hospital admissions, but if that happens despite the current pace of vaccinations, then delaying the June 21 relaxation of lockdown measures, possibly until the end of the school term next month, would be an option, according to Hunter.
The government has been repeatedly and widely criticised for responding too slowly to scientific data at each stage of the pandemic – from introducing the first lockdown in March 2020, to the Christmas easing before the January 2021 spike, through to the delay in restricting travel to the Indian sub-continent earlier this year.
According to documents released by SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, modelling suggests a variant that substantially escapes immunity or is highly transmissible – more so than the Alpha variant – could lead to a wave of infections potentially larger than that seen in January 2021 in the absence of interventions.
There’s also growing scientific evidence that vaccines are less effective at thwarting symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant.
According to figures from Croydon Council, 189,487 residents in the borough have now had their first dose of the vaccine, and 114,575 people have had both doses.
“Although Croydon’s incidence rate remains low overall, we have seen an increase in recent weeks, so it’s important that everyone who is eligible takes the vaccine to ensure the best possible protection against the virus,” Hamida Ali, the council leader, said yesterday.
This weekend, Croydon’s Mayday Hospital has a drop-in clinic offering the first dose of the vaccine to residents aged over 30, or for those who are frontline health or social care workers who have yet to have their first jab. No appointment is required, and residents just need to attend 8am to 7pm today (June 5) or tomorrow.
“Taking up the vaccine when offered is something all of us can do to help protect ourselves, protect our loved ones and help our communities get back to normal,” Ali said.
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