Wigan could be hit by another Covid wave before Christmas, says public health boss

Another wave of the coronavirus crisis could come before Christmas, Wigan’s director of public health has predicted in a stark warning ahead of the winter.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 7:28 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 7:30 am

Prof Kate Ardern is expecting the next wave of the pandemic to hit in December.

And the Wigan Council boss says other experts in the North West agree.

It comes as the borough’s infection rate climbs above 400 cases per 100,000 people while other parts of the region record the highest rates in the country.

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Some health bosses are already recommending the compulsory wearing of face masks in indoor public spaces again

Prof Ardern told a Wigan scrutiny committee that any increase in hospital admissions caused by Covid could "tip the system".

She said: “We’re not seeing at the moment the kind of peaks that we saw last year – and at the end of last year in particular with wave two and three – but our transmission rates are really high.

“Clearly, there are concerns going forward into winter with that potential for the unvaccinated population and the slow rollout of the teens vaccine, potentially impacting and crossing over with the vulnerable population not having had their booster.”

The public health director said the Covid booster and flu jab programmes are an ‘absolutely critical priority’ as vaccine efficiency and efficacy start to wane.

Prof Ardern

She explained that Covid immunity is weakened six months after vaccination.

And although transmission is being driven by the 10 to 19-year-olds, there are concerns it could spread to older groups who are more vulernable to the virus.

Prof Ardern told also told the health and social care scrutiny committee that ‘speed is of the essence’ to get the vaccine rolled out to 12 to 15-year-olds.

She said: “Anyone who thinks this pandemic is over, think again. It is not over.”

Covid outbreaks at schools in Wigan have contributed to the high infection rate in recent weeks – but measures have been put in place to stop the spread.

The public health team undertook on-site supervised masked PCR testing of 600 students at Shevington High School following a ‘signficant outbreak’.

Extra lateral flow tests were also taken to identify asymptomatic transmission.

Face coverings have been reintroduced in communal areas and classrooms at Rowan Tree Primary, Lowton High and St Edmund Arrowsmith High School.

Prof Ardern told councillors on the committee that although the measures put in place at Shevington High School have been successful, it has been agreed that face coverings will continue to be worn for another week after half term.

Prof Ardern added: “We’ve got a very good and very trusted relationship with headteachers. The feedback the health protection team has got is superb.”

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