The Covid-19 situation in Bedford is stable but at “quite a high level,” said Vicky Head, Director of Public Health for Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes at yesterday’s (Thursday) Bedford Borough Local Outbreak Engagement Board.
Hospital inpatients at Bedford hospital have risen from around nine to 32 in October, while Covid has caused around 17,500 days of disruption to education.
And Ms Head added that while the borough is below the regional average, it gave her little comfort.
She said: “Our overall case rate at the moment is 485 cases per 100,000, that puts us below the regional average, which is a good place to be.
“But I would note that, actually, at the moment, the regional average is higher than the national average.
“So actually, it doesn’t give me a great deal of comfort that we’re below the regional average at the moment.”
Ms Head’s report showed that Central Bedfordshire’s rate is “much higher” at 621 cases per 100,000. It also showed that Luton’s rate (469) is lower, while Milton Keynes is a little higher (514).
The board was told that although it does look as though the latest figures appear to show that the recent increase in daily cases has ceased for the moment, half-term means that there has been a change in testing behaviour and children aren’t mixing as much as they would be at school.
“I think it’s difficult to draw too much from this drop-off,” she said.
“When we’re looking at what’s happening in our hospitals, the number of inpatients at Bedford Hospital has increased quite a lot over October.
“It has risen from around nine inpatients at the beginning of the month to 32 as of Wednesday.
“We are also seeing an increase of pressures at Luton and Dunstable and to a lesser extent at Milton Keynes Hospital as well.
“There is a general picture of a modest but noticeable increase in pressure on hospitals,” she said.
Ms Head told the Board that outbreaks at schools have disrupted around 17,500 days of face-to-face learning, which is a “very significant level of educational disruption”.
Cllr Sue Oliver (Labour, Kempston North Ward) mentioned that teaching unions are talking about the high number of cases in English schools indicating that more could be done by local authorities.
“Is that truly the case? Can you reassure me that we’ve used all the powers we can within our schools to do what we can locally?” she asked
Ms Head replied: “I think there is clearly more we could be doing in schools nationally. I think we are doing what we can locally, I think we’re working as hard as we can to make sure we’re doing absolutely as much as we can within the contingency framework.”
Ms Head added that there may be simple measures that sit slightly outside of the framework that could be considered locally and the team is working on that advice.
Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green, Castle Ward) said that a resident had contacted her about an event running over the weekend, and wanted to know what measures have been taken for an event like this.
Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson replied that engagement has been taking place with the organisers, which is ongoing. “It’s not something we can say can’t happen,” he said.
“We are continuing to work with the organisers to make sure it can be as Covid compliant as possible, including mask-wearing.
“I am assured that we have been as robust as we possibly can.”
Ms Head said it is important that people understand that there is a high level of infection out in the community, and to maintain a good level of caution.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter