Hull is facing a public health crisis, a local health chief has warned as the city’s Covid-19 infection rates became the worst in England.
Julia Weldon, Hull’s director of public health, issued a plea for residents to follow coronavirus rules after a dramatic rise in cases and hospital admissions prompted the city’s emergency department to warn: “It’s bad this time round… really bad.”
She said the city wants the power to close certain schools for all except vulnerable children and key worker families if it is deemed necessary, as Covid cases continue to rise among teachers.
Speaking on BBC Radio Humberside, Ms Weldon confirmed the city’s rolling seven-day rate of new cases on Thursday was 726 per 100,000 – the highest in England.
She said: “It is a really worrying picture. High stress on the hospital.
“It was a 73% rise in the number of Covid patients in just a week. We are planning for that to be about 400 Covid patients, maybe 500 as a result of the infections rate.
“I can’t stress enough how serious this is. This really is a public health crisis.
“We know we’re in the middle of pandemic but for us in Hull it has become more serious.”
Ms Weldon said the city had seen 245 new cases of the virus in 24 hours and this was across all age groups.
Asked whether the city’s schools should close, she said: “We’ve been able to keep as many schools open as possible and everyone has done a fantastic job.
“We’re now seeing that really strained because of the number of teachers who are self-isolating or infected.
“It’s certainly not the students.
“What we need is more flexibility than the Government are currently giving us in order to react to what’s happening in our schools.
“One of the things we would like to do is what would have been available to us in Tier 3, which is, where we need to, where schools are under particular pressure, to only have schools open for vulnerable children and key workers.
“Let me be clear. I want some flexibility for this community so we can do that where we need to for certain schools where there are significant pressures.”
Hull Royal Infirmary’s (HRI) emergency department issued a plea on social media for people to follow the coronavirus rules after a “huge rise” in cases.
It said: “Our department and @HullHospitals are seeing a huge rise in #COVID19 cases. We urge the public to please follow @PHE_uk guidance on #HandsFaceSpace.
“It’s bad this time round… really bad!”
Hospitals in the city announced that some routine surgery would be cancelled due to the rising admissions.
According to figures released on Wednesday, there were 161 patients with Covid across HRI and Castle Hill Hospital – with 16 in intensive care.
Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said 265 people have died in the two hospitals since the pandemic began.
NHS figures show the trust was caring for just 14 patients with Covid a month ago on October 12, and this had risen to 68 by October 28.
Chief operating officer Teresa Cope said: “We’ve seen a sudden and dramatic increase in patients with Covid-19 who need to be admitted to our hospitals over the past fortnight and it’s continuing to climb, reflecting the high numbers of people in the city currently being diagnosed with the virus.
“It has become increasingly clear that if we are to have the capacity and staff to care for these patients, we have to reschedule our other work.
“We are deeply sorry to every person affected by this decision. We assure them that we will seek to restart all of our services as soon as possible.”