Preston's Covid case rate fall goes into reverse
The rate of coronavirus cases in Preston has started to head back in the wrong direction less than a week after the statistics suggested that the city might be close to being lifted out of its partial local lockdown.
Lancashire's director of public health, Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi, said last Friday that there had been good signs of progress in combatting the recent spike in Preston's Covid count - and that he hoped restrictions could be lifted within days if the encouraging trend continued.
However, the number of cases per 100,000 people bounced back up from 19.7 in the week to 24th August to 36.7 in the seven days to 29th August, with a total of 48 positive tests over the latter period.
It fell slightly to a rate of 35.6 in the week to 31st August and is still short of the mid-40s peak reached earlier last month just as city-wide restrictions on household mixing were introduced - but it is still a disappointing sign ahead of a review of those local rules by the government.
The rate of positive tests - sometimes regarded as a more reliable indication of the prevalence of the virus in an area which has stepped up testing, as Preston has done in recent weeks - also remains double the England average, at around three percent.
"We were all hoping that we'd test more in Preston and find fewer cases, but unfortunately, that's not happened," Dr. Karunanithi said.
"We do expect to see the figures fluctuate, but we need to get a run of at least a week or two's data showing a downward before we can be certain that the direction of travel is a positive one - and at the moment, we're just not seeing that."
The county's public health boss appealed to people in the city to continue to avoid social contacts, by sticking to the current local rules which state that Prestonians should not meet in each other's homes or gardens - nor those of households outside the area - and not in indoor public spaces either.
"As schools return, we are entering a very fragile period, where we really need to hold together as a community in following the guidance - including maintaining social distance, washing our hands and covering our faces where we should.
"There are a lot of anecdotal reports across Lancashire of people not wearing face coverings in shops, for instance," Dr. Karunanithi added.
Meanwhile, Preston's own local Covid case-tracing regime is now up and running.
As the Post revealed last week, Preston City Council will now attempt to contact anybody who has tested positive for Covid-19, but has not been able to be tracked down by national case-finders for a period of 24 hours. Those individuals can expect a call, then a text and then an email from Preston City Council.
If they are still proving elusive, staff with city council identification will visit their home.
“Track and trace is vital in the fight against coronavirus," said council leader Matthew Brown.
"It is imperative that anybody who is contacted by the NHS or council follows instructions and self-isolates for the designated time period to help stop the spread of the virus.
"We believe that adding our local knowledge and resource to the track and trace efforts will lead to a more effective system and help reach more people, aiding our efforts to stop the virus."
“Support and guidance is on hand through our community hub – Preston Together - to support vulnerable people who have been asked to self-isolate.
“We’re extremely grateful to the efforts and sacrifices of everyone in the city to help us fight the virus. However, it is not over yet and we all need to do our best to avoid being a contact by washing hands, wearing face coverings and maintaining distance in public,” Cllr Brown added.
Tomorrow (4th September) marks six months since Lancashire's first confirmed coronavirus case.
HOW TO GET A TEST
People living in the Preston City Council area who do not have coronavirus symptoms are still being encouraged to get themselves tested at one of two dedicated sites set up for that purpose.
A facility at the Issa Medical Centre off is open from from 10am until 3pm, seven days a week.
A testing station is also open at Preston Markets, under the canpoy off Lancaster Road, Monday to Saturday, between 10am and 3pm.
Anybody with Covid symptoms should call 119 and book an appointment for a test at the drive-through facility in operation at Preston's College.