10,000 Covid cases a week in Northamptonshire could be 'tip of the iceberg,' warns health chief

Switch away from PCR tests adds to personal responsibility for reporting results and self-isolation

By Kevin Nicholls
Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 9:24 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 9:26 am

Health chiefs fear 10,000 new Covid cases a week in Northamptonshire is 'the tip of the iceberg.'

Responsibility for reporting results now lies predominantly with those taking lateral flow tests at home rather than labs processing PCR swabs.

Nearly 10,000 new positive tests were recorded across Northamptonshire in the week to Sunday (January 30) forcing all those infected to quarantine for up to ten days.

People are taking fewer PCR tests following a change in government guidance in January

Experts are warning that a fresh Covid variant — dubbed stealth Omicron — is even more transmissible than previous strains.

And Public Health Northamptonshire director Lucy Wightman admitted: "We know everybody is not as disciplined as they could be about recording lateral flow results.

"Test results we do see are probably the tip of the iceberg.

"We are relying on people taking personal responsibility and, even if they don't record a positive test on the system, they still adhere to the required isolation periods because that is going to be key to how we progress over the next few weeks."

Northamptonshire's weekly infection rate is 1,494.6 cases per 100,000 people — compared 1,096.3 nationally — while Northampton and Corby are among the top ten areas with highest case rates, driven mainly by a rise in cases among school-age children.

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According to NHS England data published on Tuesday (February 1), 67 Covid patients have sadly died since January 1 in Northampton General and Kettering General hospitals.

Three more deaths at county care homes have also been linked to the virus, according to regulators Care Quality Commission.

Ministers removed requirements for those with positive lateral flow test results to also take a follow-up PCR test last month, leaving people to record results via an app, online or by phone.

Corby's Kingswood Academy sent home two year groups until Monday (February 7) citing extreme 'staffing and supply shortages' while health officials are concerned that nearly 45 percent of secondary school-age students have yet to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

Latest official figures showed 55.3 percent of those aged between 12 and 15 years old had been jabbed by January 26.

Vaccines first became available for the age group in September but the number getting jabbed has climbed by just six percent since Christmas. It compares to over 70 percent uptake among 16 and 17-year-olds.

Chris Pallot, director of the county's vaccine programme, admits getting a jab is designed to protect families and teaching staff was well as kids themselves, adding that vaccines reduce the risks of young people passing on Covid to others who are more vulnerable.

He said: “We want to see everyone in Northamptonshire kept as safe as possible during this Omicron wave and the best way to gain immunity to Covid-19 is to have the vaccine.”