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Coronavirus case rates rise, as £41m in grants given to businesses

Published: Wednesday, 11th August 2021

Coronavirus case rates rise, as £41m in grants given to businesses

Council leaders are warning that coronavirus case rates in the city remain too high, and are urging residents to keep getting tested and record their results, ahead of the further easing of national restrictions next week.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has revealed that the seven-day rate of coronavirus cases in the city is now 259.8 per 100,000 people, for the week 30 July – 5 August 2021. This is a 1.3 per cent decrease on the previous seven days. The positivity rate or the percentage of people who have had a test and tested positive is 8.5 per cent.

As of Monday (9 August), the city’s seven-day rate was 111th in England, out of 342 local authority areas, and below the England average of 287 cases per 100,000 population. It was the ninth highest infection rate in the West Midlands, out of 14 local authority areas, and below the West Midlands average of 265 cases per 100,000 population.

However, council leader Abi Brown has warned that, after a decrease in cases, infection rates are rising.

She said: “We expect that case rates could rise to around 300 per 100,000 population by the end of the week. That is far too high, and we would expect a further rise in cases with the further easing of lockdown restrictions from next Monday (16 August) and the return of unrestricted crowds to football matches and other sporting events.

“We are concerned that if we all take a ‘we have to live with it’ attitude, people will think it is ok to have a very high seven-day rate of positive cases. It isn’t ok. At 260 cases we are currently twelve times higher than when we became an area of concern last summer. We urge people to please remember that this a dangerous, nasty virus that kills. We all need to keep taking sensible precautions.”

Under step four of the government’s coronavirus roadmap, changes to self-isolation rules are set to be introduced from next Monday (16 August). It will mean that:

  • Double-vaccinated people will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.
  • Young people aged under 18 will be exempt from isolating if they are a close contact, as part of plans to ensure they can make the most of their education as restrictions continue to ease.

Double-vaccinated people and under 18s identified as close contacts will continue to be advised to take a PCR test, to detect the virus and variants of concern. Anyone who tests positive following the PCR test will still be legally required to self-isolate, irrespective of their vaccination status. The NHS COVID-19 app will update in line with the new guidance on self-isolation for close contacts.

The changes come as the number of people being tested for coronavirus in the city continues to fall.

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “It is concerning that the number of tests being completed is continuing to fall. This figure is now just below 25,000 tests a day, whereas this time last month it was consistently above 35,000 tests a day. We urge people to continue to get tested and to record their results.

“There are currently 56 people in hospital locally with Covid, and half of them are on the critical care ward, some fighting for their lives. Many more will go on to develop long Covid.

“The best way of all that we can help to protect ourselves and others around us is to get vaccinated and encourage all our family, friends and colleagues to do the same if they are eligible. The vaccine does not eliminate completely the chance of getting Covid but it does offer a huge protective effect by reducing at least eight-fold your chance of catching it, the severity of illness if you do get it, the chance of having to go into hospital if you do and ultimately the risk of dying.”

Meanwhile, the council has revealed it has given out more than £41m to businesses in grants to help them through the coronavirus restrictions, since last November. In total, the council has administered £41,066,297.51 in both mandatory and discretionary grants, making a total of 15,672 individual payments to businesses. The government has announced that coronavirus support grants for businesses have now ended.

Councillor Brown said: “The government made available a number of different grant schemes to support businesses since last November, and we moved quickly to ensure this money was passed on to businesses as soon as possible. The money has acted as a lifeline to so many businesses to help them through an incredibly difficult time. It has been a huge logistical operation to administer the funding, but we are pleased that this work has made a big difference to businesses up and down the city.”

The council is now experiencing a large number of applications for Test and Trace Support Payments from residents who are isolating. These are payments of £500 for people on a low income who meet eligibility criteria. More details can be found online at www.stoke.gov.uk. In the past month the authority has received around 1,500 applications, compared to just over 6,000 total number of applications since the scheme began in September 2020. That means around a quarter of all applications have come in the past month. Extra resource has been put in place to go through all the applications and residents are asked for their patience while this work continues.