Task force looks at why Covid-19 remains a problem for Wisbech

Dr Liz Robin

'We are at a transition point' says director of public health for Cambs, Dr Liz Robin. It has been revealed Cabinet Office officials visited Wisbech to look at why the town is not recovering as fast as elsewhere from Covid-19 infections. - Credit: Archant/Google

A top-level Cabinet Office Covid-19 field team visited Wisbech to see why the town was suffering “stubborn infection rates” compared to much of the county and most of the country.  

Details of the visit in February are revealed in a briefing paper from Cambridgeshire County Council.  

The field team was established last year to visit areas of the country where the rates of Covid-19 are higher than, or not falling as quickly as, similar areas. 

"The geographical focus of the visit to Cambridgeshire was Fenland, and particularly Wisbech, as well as Peterborough,” says the report.  

It picked those places “where infection rates had become relatively stable whilst in other parts of our county the rates were falling”.  

The three-day visit from February 24 combined talks with council leaders, public health officers, public sector colleagues, community representative, employers and voluntary sector partners.  

“The team also spent a half day in Wisbech, visiting the town and some of the projects and services that were focussed on tackling the pandemic,” says the report. 

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“The Cabinet Office was impressed with our collective and system wide response to date. 

“They recognised that in fact both Wisbech and Peterborough were areas with enduring transmission.  

“They recognised that a combination of factors was leading to stubborn infection rates.” 

These were identified as “levels of deprivation, housing conditions, working conditions, low wages, and low levels of take up of self-isolation support in relation to need”.  

The council’s general purposes committee will be told that the final report from the Cabinet Office is awaited.  

“The visit has enabled us to consider additional interventions,” says the report. 

This will ensure that “we are maximising every opportunity available to us to support residents and to ensure compliance amongst both the community and business.” 

March 23 marks one year since the first national lockdown began. 

The county council says the number of cases of Covid-19 in Cambridgeshire and across England has fallen during lockdown and is now stabilising, while the pressure on the NHS has continued to reduce.  

Latest coronavirus figures that show that in Cambridgeshire- up to March 17 - there have been 26,803 Covid-19 cases detected since the beginning of the pandemic. 

This is a lower cumulative rate than England (4,101.2 cases per 100,000 compared to 6,646.4 cases per 100,000 for England). 3 

Similar to national patterns, cases of Covid-19 in Cambridgeshire increased rapidly in late December, peaking in early January at 549 cases per 100,000 for the week ending January 4. 

With the impact of national lockdown, have now dropped to 51.3 cases per 100,000 for the week ending March 12, 2021.  

This is below the England average of 58.7 per 100,000 but above the East of England average of 43.9 per 100,000.  

In Cambridgeshire, case rates are highest in Fenland, where the weekly case rate is 106.0 per 100,000 for the week ending March 12, 2021.  

There have been 926 deaths involving Covid-19 in Cambridgeshire up to March 5, 2021, where Covid-19 is on the person’s death certificate.  

The weekly number of deaths in people whose death certificate mention Covid-19 in Cambridgeshire has reduced from a peak of 75 deaths for the week ending January 29, 2021 to 24 deaths for the week ending March 5, 2021.  

Dr Liz Robin, shortly to retire as director of public health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, is proud that the county council was among the first local authorities to produce vlogs in multiple languages. 

They had been “invaluable in helping us to promote vital safety messages”. 

Dr Robin said: “The pandemic has been hugely difficult for everyone.  

“There's been so many personal tragedies and effects on our residents, both from the virus itself and its impact on mental health. 

"A year ago, I never would have predicted that we would so quickly have developed not one, but multiple vaccines and already be well on the way to distributing them to everyone.  

“The vaccine is a real milestone, but it's important for us to remember it takes time to have its effect.  

“Up to three weeks after the first dose, and for maximum protection it is essential to have the second dose too.” 

"Because of this, and the fact that many working age and young adults have not yet been vaccinated, it’s so important that we continue to follow social distancing guidance and the changes in the lockdown rules closely, as well as getting tested when necessary.  

“We are at a transition point. It will get better, but it will take time. 

"However, I have great faith in our residents and communities who have gone and above and beyond this last year to keep each other safe.  

“Communities working together have real power in helping the residents that live in them live long and healthier lives."