Record Covid-19 rates among Norfolk children, but overall rates fall
- Credit: PA
Coronavirus rates among Norfolk schoolchildren have hit a record high - but overall case rates in the county have fallen by almost a fifth.
Figures from Public Health England showed that, in the seven days up to September 17, the case rate among children aged 10 to 14 was 668.8 cases per 100,000 and just under 500 per 100,000 among five to nine-year-olds.
While the numbers went up over the summer, schools have now gone back and the number of outbreaks is increasing.
There are currently more than 20 outbreaks in schools and colleges.
The rising case rates come as widespread Covid vaccination of under-16s have got under way in Norfolk schools.
Children aged 12 to 15 are being offered their first dose of the Pfizer jab, with sessions taking place in schools.
Despite the rising rates among schoolchildren, overall rates for Norfolk have fallen, with case rates down in every district. The number of people with covid in hospital has also fallen.
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And the number of patients in hospital, who had tested positive for Covid-19, has also fallen.
Case rates for Norfolk as a whole fell by 17.7pc in the seven days up to Friday, September 17, Public Health England figures released by Norfolk County Council revealed.
They went down from 269 per 100,000 over the previous week to 221.3. That was lower than the England average of 258 and the East of England average of 241.2.
In Norwich, case rates were down 22.3pc, from 249 per 100,000 to 193.4, while Great Yarmouth, which has the highest Covid case rate in Norfolk, dropped by 21.8pc from 388.1 per 100,000 to 303.4.
King's Lynn and West Norfolk saw a fall of just over 22pc, from 277.7 per 100,000 to 216.2, while South Norfolk dropped by 19.3pc from 250.2 per 100,000 to 202.
Breckland was down just over 11pc, from 300.9 to 267.9, Broadland fell 14.3pc from 248.6 to 213 and North Norfolk was down to 163.5 from 179.7, a decrease of 9pc.
As of Monday, September 20 there were 72 people in hospital who had tested positive for Covid-19, six of them in critical care.
That compared to the 101 who were in hospital with the virus as of the previous Tuesday (September 14), of whom 14 were in critical care.
The number of outbreaks - defined as two or more linked cases - has gone up by 11pc, from 92 to 83.
Fifty-seven are among care providers, including care homes, down one on the previous week.
In schools and colleges there were 22 outbreaks, compared to 12 over the previous week.
Why are case rates among children at a record high?
Virus expert Prof Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia's School of Medicine, said: "It's really complicated because there's pretty strong evidence that schools, over the past six months, have not contributed much, if anything, to the spread of the epidemic.
"Certainly cases among children are high at the moment and they did not go up at the time we would have expected during the initial surge.
"It could be that there is an increase in giving children lateral flow tests, so we are seeing higher detection rates.
"There's a debate, and a fairly fierce one, between people who do not think we should be sending children to school at all and those who think that they don't really get ill and do not really have a high risk of Long Covid even if they are infected."
Prof Hunter is in the latter camp and said he believed there was a case to stop testing children, because keeping them off if they had tested positive, but were not ill, was affecting their education.
He said: "I think the only children who should be kept off school are those who are symptomatic and ill. But if they are not ill, I think the benefits of keeping them off school are not greater than the benefits of them getting an education."
Prof Hunter did not back the universal vaccination of all 12 to 15-year-olds - a stance which was also the view of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
However, the government pushed ahead with the roll-out after the UK's chief medical officers recommended it should happen.