'We have a new challenge now' - Suffolk health leader on high Covid rates

Stuart Keeble (inset) has warned Suffolk of high coronavirus rates

Stuart Keeble (inset) has warned Suffolk of high coronavirus rates - Credit: Suffolk County Council/Sarah Lucy Brown

Suffolk's public health leader has warned "we have a new challenge now" after the county received extra government support to tackle high Covid rates.

From Monday, Suffolk becomes an Enhanced Response Area (ERA) — meaning specialist teams will be deployed to help support work around vaccinations, communications and managing outbreaks.

Other measures to be introduced include fast-tracking decisions to government, enhanced measures in schools, national teams supporting local outbreak teams with surge testing and additional volunteers being recruited.

The UK Health Security Agency's decision to make Suffolk an ERA came at the request of the local outbreak engagement board.

Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's director of public health, welcomed the move in the hope it would protect the NHS this winter.

He said: "Every day since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been closely monitoring the impact of Covid-19 in Suffolk and taking action to protect people and save lives.

"That work hasn’t stopped, even when rates of infection slowed during the summer.

"We have a new challenge now – high infection rates and continuing hospitalisations at exactly the same time that NHS is trying to catch up on delayed treatments for millions of people.

"That is why, after assessing all the data and options available to us, we have made this bid for extra help from central government.

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"We want to get ahead and stop Covid before our NHS reaches the point of no return."

Matthew Hicks, chair of the local outbreak engagement board and leader of Suffolk County Council, added: "I very much welcome this additional help and funding from the government. It will support our already considerable efforts to get more people vaccinated and to slow the spread of Covid-19 in Suffolk.

Matthew Hicks

Matthew Hicks, chair of the local outbreak engagement board and leader of Suffolk County Council - Credit: Gregg Brown

"Throughout the pandemic, Suffolk has been effective at keeping our Covid rates low compared to other parts of the country. This is because we have worked hard and been proactive at every stage.

"The situation facing Suffolk now calls for the same forward-thinking and preventative work to protect residents, businesses and our way of life.

"As we learn to live with Covid-19, it will be actions such as this that prevent Covid from having an even worse impact and, ultimately, holding back our recovery."

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