Lincolnshire Coronavirus: Concerns about rising numbers as free testing ends

Most free COVID-19 testing will end today as the majority of restrictions come to an end.

Stock picture of the coronavirus SUS-220331-135920001
Stock picture of the coronavirus SUS-220331-135920001

The county’s PCR testing centres including those at the Lincolnshire Showground and the University of Lincoln’s Joseph Banks Laboratories have already closed and residents across the country will mostly have to purchase lateral flow tests from retail locations.

But as restrictions ease off there have been concerns over rising numbers, so here’s a look at the tally as of March 31.

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According to the government’s COVID dashboard, in Lincolnshire cases have slowly been rising over the past few weeks with 491 new cases confirmed on March 1, compared to a high of 1,327 on March 21.

However, the latest average seven day rates did start to level off from the middle of the month onwards moving from 398.3 on March 1 to the latest available figure on March 23 showing a rate of 1.031.7.

Despite some of the increases, cases have yet to reach anywhere near the heights of January 4 when there were 2,619 cases confirmed – the highest daily recorded number since the start of the pandemic.

Testing itself has seen a sharp drop since January anyway, but the county was still seeing more than 7,000 tests a day carried out – sometimes higher than 10,000. The latest seven-day average testing rate was 10,435.3 reported on March 23.

With people now being expected to pay for tests it can be forecasted the number might drop dramatically, particularly as people weigh up going into work against tax, energy and shopping cost increases.

Many will point out the key thing right now is how many cases are equating to hospitalisations and deaths.

According to the dashboard, ULHT has seen a rise in patient numbers since the beginning of March, starting with 32 on March 1 and reporting 115 by March 29. The latter figure is the highest since February 2, 2021.

Thankfully just one or two patients have been put on mechanical ventilation beds in the past few days, indicating that although more patients have the virus, it is not making as many people seriously ill.

The latest NHS data shows that since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,041 deaths at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust hospitals, with 48 at Lincolnshire Community Health Service and one at Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust.

The rise in cases that are ‘mild’ is mainly down to residents being vaccinated, however, the number of people coming forward for jabs has been slowly falling in recent months.

Since January 1, the number of people who have been double dosed and boosted in Lincolnshire has risen from just 62.1% to 68.3%.

However, 82.3% of the population have had two doses, meaning there is some protection there. Vaccine fatigue or COVID-scepticism has taken a further hold in the population since then.

The over 77s have been offered a fourth dose of the booster vaccine but data is not yet available on uptake of that dosage.

According to the data, the majority of age groups over 50 have had a 90% uptake of the vaccine, meaning the most vulnerable are largely protected.

A total of 1,680,948 doses have been handed out, of which 584,791 are second jabs and 485,308 are booster or third doses.