Expert warns Sefton could be next to face new Covid measures

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Sefton could be next in line for tougher measures to combat the Indian variant, an expert has warned.

Professor David Livermore, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, said the continuing prevalence of the variant meant more surge testing and stricter travel advice could be on the way in a number of areas.

Although surge testing in Sefton has recently been abandoned, the number of cases has begun to rise rapidly again with the new variant – now known as Delta – responsible for around a fifth of new cases.

There are already 28 local authorities in the country where the rising prevalence of Delta has resulted in more testing and tougher travel guidance, and Professor Livermore identified three other areas that he thought were “most likely” to join them, the Daily Mirror has reported.

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Professor Livermore said: “I’m loth to best guess what the Government will do but they are most likely to pursue such approaches in places where the Indian variant is most prevalent and where its incidence in the population is also high."

Since it was first detected, Sefton has had almost 200 cases of the Delta variant, according to the most recent NHS data.

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However, many of those will have been detected last month when the borough experienced a small, isolated spike in cases.

At the time, more testing was brought in to combat the rise, but unlike parts of Manchester and Lancashire the borough did not become subject to new guidance restricting travel into and out of the area.

The surge testing did see cases decline, but they have now begun to rise again following the reopening of indoor pubs and restaurants on May 17.

All parts of the Liverpool City Region have seen a rise in cases since May 17, but so far Sefton remains the borough with the highest levels of the new variant.

Despite the rise in cases, Professor Livermore said the successful vaccination programme meant that hospitals were much less likely to be overrun than in previous waves.

In Sefton, around three-quarters of people have had at least one dose of the vaccine and more than half have had two.

Professor Livermore said: "[New infections] will be slowed by growing herd immunity and the coming of summer.

"Despite this inevitable spread, and rising case numbers, there is scant evidence of rising severe disease and none that [the] NHS is still under severe Covid pressure."

In the week up to June 6, Sefton saw 154 new cases – almost double the number seen in the previous week – giving it the highest infection rate on Merseyside.

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