York on knife-edge as Covid-19 case rate in city nearly doubles

YORK’S coronavirus rate has nearly doubled – and health chiefs are expecting to find out today whether the city has been placed on the Government watch list.

Last Thursday the city’s director of public health said the rate had reached 61.25 cases per 100,000 – a level that caused concern and fears that York was at risk of being put into lockdown.

But yesterday (Monday) City of York Council confirmed the rate has jumped to 114.43 cases per 100,000 as a result of a technical glitch in the national Test and Trace system, which left many cases unreported.

The rate of coronavisrus cases in York has “massively increased”, director of public health Sharon Stoltz said.

She is expecting to get a phone call today (Tuesday) from government about whether York will be placed on the watch list of areas of concern.

“Tuesday is the dreaded day where we get the phone call to find out if we are on the watch list or not,” she told a council meeting.

“You would think I’d receive a call to say York is going on the watch list. I’m adding a caveat to that because [the government] are in transition from the old system [of local lockdowns] to a new one. It’s possible that we will be on hold this week.

“I don’t know what criteria the government is intending to use.”

The public health team said last week that places are usually added to the watch list when they get to a rate of 50 cases per 100,000 population.

Ms Stoltz told a council meeting the additional cases will have skewed the city’s figures and a more accurate picture of how many cases there are in York will emerge over the next seven days.

The meeting heard 7.55 per cent of people tested in York get a positive result – higher than the national rate.

In the past 14 days 34 cases have been linked to care homes and 30 cases linked to schools.

Prof Charlie Jeffery, vice chancellor of the University of York, also revealed that the site currently has 54 active coronavirus cases – linked to household transmission rather than teaching groups. And that York St John had less than 25 cases at the end of last week.

No students are understood to have been affected severely enough to need hospital treatment.

Ms Stoltz said York Hospital is beginning to see an increase in cases and has started its regular reporting of cases again. But the city is not currently seeing a rise in excess deaths – there was one death between September 12 to 18.

Cllr Pete Kilbane highlighted scenes of crowds in Church Street at the 10pm curfew 10 days ago and said restaurants and pubs in the city are working hard to curb the spread of the virus. He said: “The police cleared that scene within half an hour and I haven’t seen any scenes similar to that.”

The council’s environmental health team are “very pleased” with how the majority of businesses across York are compliant with the regulations, the meeting heard.

York Central MP Rachael Maskell said: “York risks moving into lockdown if urgent measures to protect one another are not abided by.

“It is deeply concerning that the prevalence of Covid-19 is rising very sharply, and we are now seeing a new spike in infection and those who are seriously ill with the virus. “It has returned with vengeance and we need a robust response to protect the lives of everyone in York, including the most vulnerable.”

York Press | News