Infection rates are now falling in Havering - is lockdown working?

A coronavirus testing site. Picture: PA/Jane Barlow

The Covid-19 infection rate has started falling in Havering - Credit: PA/Jane Barlow

Havering’s coronavirus infection rate has fallen, week-on-week, for three days in a row, suggesting that lockdown may finally be working.

However, the borough’s infection rate remains high and its hospital trust continues to face enormous pressure.

Between Thursday, January 7, and Saturday, January 9, Havering’s infection rate fell each day, compared to the previous week.

On January 7, the borough had 1,129 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents. 

Although a very high rate, that was down 11 per cent on a week earlier.  

On January 8, the infection rate rose slightly to 1,144 cases – but that was still 14.1pc lower than the previous week.  

On January 9, the rate reduced once again to 1,025 cases – 25.4pc lower than it had been a week earlier.  

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The local picture 

Although rates are falling in many parts of the borough, they remain so high that the government still places them among the worst in the country.  

The only parts of Havering not placed in the worst category are Gidea Park, Hacton, Upminster and Cranham. 

In Cranham East, cases are down 50pc to 665 cases per 100,000. In Upminster North and Cranham West, the rate has fallen by 58.2pc, to 429.8 cases per 100,000.  

Hacton is down 55.8pc, Upminster Bridge by 46pc and Gidea Park by 45pc.  

The only two areas to have recorded increases on January 9 were Rush Green, up by 18.8pc to 1,588 cases per 100,000 residents, and Rainham, up by 7pc to 1,349.8.  

A false dawn? 

This is not the first time in recent weeks that Havering’s cases have fallen for several days in a row.  

Between December 25 and December 30, the borough’s confirmed infection rate fell every day, week-on-week.  

But then, from New Year’s Eve until January 6, it began climbing again.  

On January 4, Havering hit its highest ever infection rate – 1,422.8 confirmed cases per 100,000 people.  

Why the drop? 

On December 19, London was placed under Tier 4 restrictions. On January 6, England entered a new national lockdown.  

The virus typically takes more than a week to incubate and cause symptoms, prompting people to get tested – so the falling infection rate from January 7 would indicate a reduction in transmission between one and two weeks earlier, during Tier 4 restrictions. 

However, the fall could also be a natural consequence of people having been at home over Christmas and New Year, rather than mixing with others in school and at work. 

Therefore, it will take another week to know whether lockdown restrictions are really working. 

Severe cases 

Hospitalisations and deaths are typically several weeks behind infection rates, as the virus takes time to become severe.  

So as new infections began to fall in early January, severe illnesses continued to rise. 

On January 7, when the week-on-week infection rate dropped by 11.6pc, the number of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients at the Barking, Havering and Redbridge hospital trust rose by more than two thirds.  

On January 10, NHS data revealed 72 of the trust’s 79 adult critical care beds were occupied.  

On January 11, the number of coronavirus patients in hospital beds hit 518.  

BHRUT’s chief executive Tony Chambers said staff were “stressed, anxious and exhausted”.  

Queen's Hospital, Rom Valley Way, Romford

The Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS trust, which runs Queen's Hospital, had more than 500 beds occupied by Covid-19 patients on January 11. - Credit: Archant

Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer, warned this week that the latest peak in hospitalisations and deaths could last another three weeks. 

Havering Council leader Damian White said this week: "Even if our number of cases per 100,000 people starts to come down, as early signs this week suggest, the overall situation is going to get worse before it gets better."