Bedford in national news as worries grow over “massive rise” in Indian variant

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Vicky Head, director of public health for Bedford Borough, appearing on BBC Breakfast this morning

Bedford’s director of public health, Vicky Head, was interviewed on BBC Breakfast this morning, saying that she was “really worried” about how quickly cases of the Indian variant of Covid-19 (coronavirus) are spreading in the Borough.

As reported in the Bedford Independent yesterday (Monday), Bedford has the second-highest rate of coronavirus in England. There have been 214 new cases recorded in the seven days to 13 May.

Read: Surge testing approved as Bedford records second highest rate of infection in the country

Ms Head told BBC Breakfast: “What we know is what we’ve been seeing locally, which is a really massive rise in cases. About three or four weeks ago we were having three or four cases a day. We are now up to 10 times that.”

In an interview that has been shared on other BBC news updates and in the national and regional press, she said that with most of the new cases presenting in people aged under 40, she’s “confident” that vaccines are effective against the new strain.

“We have seen a small uptick in our inpatient numbers at the hospital, but nothing that makes me feel like we are not seeing a vaccine that is effective.”

More transmissible

Ms Head said that health chiefs in the Borough think that most of the cases are likely to be the B.1.617.2 variant from India and that, “One of the really striking things about the variant is just how transmissible it is.

“If someone goes to school and tests positive, we are then seeing their whole family test positive.”

Local lockdowns?

Ministers haven’t ruled out the possibility of local lockdowns if the situation intensifies.

The environment secretary, George Eustace told Times Radio: “If we do have a deterioration in some of these areas, then of course we can’t rule out that we would put in place certain local lockdowns.

“At the moment we are doing a lot of intensive surveillance in those areas, with surge testing to identify it and deal with it.”

Commenting on this, Cllr Louise Jackson, Bedford Borough Council portfolio holder for health and wellbeing said: “Local lockdowns don’t work and local businesses in Bedford cannot afford to endure another.

“And why would you use that approach – an approach that hasn’t worked before –  when you have vaccines that we know stop the spread of infection, and that we’re confident will protect people from serious illness?”

Everyone in Bedford Borough can play their part in reducing the risk of transmission. “Stay outside if you can, and if you can’t, keep indoor spaces well ventilated,” said Ms Head.

“Hands Face Space fresh air remains as important as ever.”

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