May 17: Are cases low enough for lockdown to be easing?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for May 17 Covid-19 lockdown easing - Credit: PA

A fall in the number of COVID patients in Lister hospital and cases across Welwyn Hatfield means further lockdown easing is now just a week away.

In February the Government outlined four tests the country would have to meet before each step of restrictions could be eased.

And our analysis of official data shows that Welwyn Hatfield is well on track to meet those targets.

1) Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS

For the week of April 26 to May 2 there were 11 cases per 100,000 people, while the average area in England had 16.

There was a total of 14 cases in the same week, 11 fewer than the week before.

Back in January the cases per 100,000 were above 850 in Welwyn Hatfield - 77 times higher - which highlights the dramatic decline in cases.

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2) Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated

At the start of the rollout it was unclear whether the lockdown or the vaccine was behind the fall in COVID patients.

However, numerous studies since then have shown that all vaccines are highly effective at reducing hospital admissions.

The last COVID death reported in Welwyn Hatfield was on March 8.

While the number of patients in Lister Hospital was down to only two on May 4.

Nationally there are 759 COVID patients in hospitals, down a quarter in the week.

In the first week of May there were 40 COVID deaths reported across England.

3) The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.

In Hertfordshire and Essex more than 90 per cent of people age 70 and above have had two doses of the vaccine, by May 2.

In Welwyn Hatfield 20.9 per cent of people aged 16 and above have received both doses - that figure rises to 52.3 per cent when counting only first doses.

4) Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

The Indian strain is the latest to be designated a “variant of concern” by Public Health England and surge testing is underway in places where it has been detected.

Cases have increased to 520 from 202 in the last week and are mainly centred in London and Bolton.

However lockdown easing is still going ahead, as so far the country has been able to contain new strains and vaccines appear to effective against them.

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