York’s coronavirus rate has increased rapidly in recent days. The city was the area with the lowest rate in Yorkshire and Humber three weeks ago – now it has the highest rate in the region.
The city’s public health director Sharon Stoltz said the reasons for such a sharp rise in cases could include an increase in people visiting the city centre in the weeks before Christmas and residents travelling to meet family before Government rules for the festive season changed.
She said news of the vaccine being approved may have also caused people to relax their attitude to social distancing and handwashing guidelines.
Ms Stoltz said: “The message of hope with the vaccine has led to perhaps people relaxing and letting down their guard. It is human nature.
“If we are going to beat this increase in cases as a city we are going to have to work together again and do what we did in the spring.”
She said the situation in York has changed rapidly – with a provisional rate of 490.9 cases per 100,000 people on January 1.
There are currently 70 patients in York Hospital with coronavirus and Ms Stoltz said the hospital is “coping but under pressure” as it faces extra winter pressures.
But she added that there has not been an increase in deaths related to coronavirus, similar to the spike seen during the first wave: “Clinicians understand the disease a lot better.”
Struggling to meet demand
York is facing a struggle to meet demand for testing in the city – and all the rapid test appointments available at York St John University have been booked up until mid January.
Plans are in place for possible testing sites at the University of York and sites in Acomb and Woodthorpe – but there are not currently enough trained staff to process the number of tests required.
Ms Stoltz said: “In terms of what’s driving the increase in cases, I think it’s a combination of factors.
“We know the new variant of the virus is more contagious. That has appeared at the same time that perhaps people were excited by Christmas.
“We know that the city was busier – pubs and restaurants were busier. People were out and about more.
“Even though the Government changed the Christmas plans, we know some families had already travelled to meet up.”