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Lancashire’s coronavirus cases ‘could spike’ in September

Written by on June 29, 2020

Lancashire is preparing for a surge in coronavirus cases in September if new lockdown virus safety rules aren’t followed, the county’s top public health boss has said.

The warning was made during a press conference with the Lancashire Resilience Forum this afternoon (June 29), headed by LRF chairwoman Angie Ridgwell and Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire’s Director of Public Health.

During the press conference, Ms Ridgwell said the LRF was now moving to a stage of “learning to live” with coronavirus in society, with no vaccine expected in 2020.

She also said central government funding is “not sufficient” to cover all Covid-19 costs predicted for 2020.

But Ms Ridgwell added that further funding from government is expected in the coming months, with no emergency budget expected at Lancashire County Council.

Dr Sakthi warned that Lancashire still has a “very high” level of transmission of coronavirus compared to other areas of the UK.

But he added that it is very important that we don’t remain in lockdown forever due to the “collateral effects on health and wellbeing as well as the economy”.

Regarding a September spike, Dr Sakthi said: “As we look forward there are two certainties, or fixed points, that we’re concerned about.”

The first certainty is an increase in Covid-19 cases if guidelines aren’t followed in the new phase of lockdown.

Dr Sakthi said that if social distancing guidance, infection control procedures and Covid-secure businesses aren’t successful, “we will start to see another increase in cases”.

He said this will happen in four to six weeks of lockdown rules being relaxed as of July 4 – including the reopening of pubs and restaurants and being able to stay over at the homes of relatives and friends – with early September highlighted as a pressure point.

The second fixed point the Lancashire Resilience Forum is preparing for is the start of the flu season and the pressure it will put on infrastructure.

Care homes and hospitals remain virus hot spots in Lancashire, with “localised interventions” possible to stop future transmission of the virus.

Dr Sakthi moved away from describing such steps as ‘local lockdowns’.

Instead, he said education and engagement is the approach in Lancashire, with the LRF only wanting to bring in localised shutdowns when “really needed”.

Dr Sakthi also told LancsLive that Lancashire’s R value for coronavirus has been between 0.6 and 0.8 with the county within “surge capacity” in case of any new spikes, with his belief firmly that Lancashire is “nearing the end” of the first wave of the virus.

The R value shows the average number of people every person with coronavirus is infecting, with a number as close to zero as possible the aim.

A value below one is generally seen as good, with the number for the North West hovering around one in recent months.

Ms Ridgwell and Dr Sakthi also confirmed Lancashire has a constant back-supply of four weeks of PPE stock, with Dr Sakthi saying it has been “one of the strengths” of the Covid response in the county.

Dr Sakthi ended by saying the people of Lancashire “should actually go back to normal as much as possible” under new rules as of July 4.

In a final message, he said: “Long term lockdown is no good for our health and well-being, nor is it good for our economy, which we can argue is much more important in the longer term for our health and well-being overall.

“My advice to people is to be responsible, careful and cautious.

“We do have to somehow come out of this lockdown as a community and as a county.”