The Delta variant of Coronavirus continues to take hold across the region, with the number of positive cases showing a startling upturn in the past week.
Just shy of 3,000 new cases were reported in Birmingham in seven days – pushing the rate up to 256.4 per 100k people.
That’s an alarming rise, up 67% on the week before, and mirrors rising rates elsewhere as people lower their guard and mix more, with school pupils and university students especially affected.
The situation in Solihull is worse, where the case rate is now 306.0 per 100k people.
There is renewed urgency now around the vaccination rollout programme, with public health officials locally eager to ensure everyone takes up the myriad opportunities to take their first and second doses in community locations.
READ MORE: Every Covid vaccination centre as infection rates spike in Birmingham and the Black Country
A full list of where you can get a vaccine right now and this week in the Black Country and West Birmingham is here.
A list of vaccination locations in the rest of Birmingham and Solihull is here.
The fact that rates are still rising quickly in some areas while vaccination rates remain relatively low, and particularly among under 50s, is causing concern among some scientists and medics.
They are anxious that new Health Secretary Sajid Javid has set out plans for July 19th, dubbed the new ‘freedom day’, despite rising cases and with much work still to do to reach the unvaccinated.
Mr Javid wrote this weekend that the country needs to move towards Covid having a status akin to flu, and ‘find ways to live with it’, or risk more harm to health and the economy.
Later today he and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are expected to sign off easing of various Covid restrictions in England, including around travel freedoms for fully vaccinated adults, reducing isolation rules for the fully vaccinated and making the wearing of face masks voluntary, apart from in healthcare settings.
The school “bubbles” system that has forced hundreds of thousands of well pupils to self-isolate at home is also expected to be dropped; while pub and restaurant customers may no longer have to scan an NHS QR code upon their arrival.
While the approach has been welcomed by many, others fear it could yet prove a setback.
University of Birmingham’s Prof Alan McNally, director of their world-class microbiology and infection institute and who helped set up the country’s first Lighthouse lab for Covid case testing, took to Twitter today to retweet his previous calls for care when opening up, particularly around masks and social distancing.
He retweeted this message rich in sarcasm but highlighting a serious concern: “Letting a virus rip through a partially vaccinated population is exactly the experiment I’d do to evolve a virus able to evade immunity.”
While Dr David Nicholl, a consultant in the city, tweeted: “A reminder that “no one is safe until we are all safe”…and 50% of the population is unvaccinated.”
He also went on to express concern about how mask wearing in hospitals was going to be enforced, after July 19th.
“Nervous” about Black African case rates and vaccination take up – Birmingham public health chief
There is concern that case rates locally are high particularly in some communities where the vaccine uptake is low – with deprivation and ethnicity continuing to be critical factors.
That’s why energies are wholly focussed on getting everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible, say public health officials.
Dr Justin Varney, updating the city’s Covid Outbreak Engagement Board last week, said vaccination was ‘absolutely key’ to ensuring the surge triggered by the Delta variant did not translate into hospitalisations and deaths.
He said he was ‘nervous’ that case rates among the city’s Black African communities are the highest in the city – while they are also among the least vaccinated.
“The rapid rise in the Black African community does not link back to schools or households. It is very difficult from the information we have from the contact tracing services (to understand it).
“It is a particular threat and I am quite nervous and not particularly positive about what that might translate to, in terms of hospitalisations and potential deaths.
“It’s a particular threat because of the correlation with very low vaccination uptake.”
Education settings remain the biggest ‘link’ between cases that are traced, but hospitality is increasingly a common factor – possibly linked to joint viewing of football matches.
Extra people are being brought into the city’s public health team to deal with a backlog of notifications around new cases and clusters of cases, the meeting also heard.
BirminghamLive is supporting the vaccination rollout – vaccines have been vigorously tested and are recognised as the only way to protect our region from Covid-19 and get all our businesses open again safely.
But you may have questions still. You can ask your doctor and also dedicated websites have been set up by Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group and its partner CCG in Black Country and West Birmingham with everything you might want to ask about the local vaccination rollout.
If you want to book a vaccine appointment, visit the NHS vaccines website here.
We hope these other useful links will help you make health decisions for you and your family.
Communications across the region is heavily focussed on urging people to get their vaccine – and reminding people to take free lateral flow tests regularly, to help keep others safe if you are unwittingly carrying infection.
These are the current case rates locally, based on data for the week ending July 1:
Birmingham – 2,928 new cases, rate of 256.5 per 100,000 people (100k)
Bromsgrove – 142 new cases, rate of 142.2/100k
Dudley – 514 new cases, rate of 159.8
Lichfield – 218 new cases, rate of 208.1/100k
Sandwell – 568 new cases, rate of 172.9/100k
Solihull – 662 new cases, rate of 306/100k
Tamworth – 449 new cases, rate of 585.4/100k
Walsall – 347 new cases, rate of 121.6/100k
Warwick – 600 new cases, rate of 417.4/100k
North Warwickshire – 189 new cases, rate of 289.6/100k
Wolverhampton – 429 new cases, rate of 162.9/100k
How many of those who become infected are ending up in hospital?
Latest data from University Hospitals Birmingham, shared with Birmingham Live, reveals there are currently 61 patients who have tested positive for coronavirus across their four hospitals (the QE, Heartlands, Good Hope, Solihull), with eight in intensive care.
The age profile of those hospitalised reveals that of the 33 males and 28 females in hospital, some 16 of them are under 35. Six are under 24.
Twenty two of those currently ill are over 70 – this is the age group that’s always been deemed the most vulnerable to the worst impacts from the virus.
We do not have a breakdown of the vaccination status of those in hospital but nationally most of those struggling are either not vaccinated, or have had a single dose.
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