Fears of ‘infection explosion’ if lockdown lifted too early

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A Liverpool health boss has urged the government not to lift the national lockdown too early for fears of an 'infection explosion' in the city.

The city's coronavirus rates have been dropping since restrictions came into force in early January following a huge surge in cases after Christmas.

Liverpool's infection rate soared to over 1,000 cases per 100,000 and sadly this has translated into more pressure on the city's hospitals than ever before.

January was the deadliest month of the pandemic for the entire Liverpool City Region.

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Next week the Prime Minister is expected to lay out a roadmap for when restrictions could be lifted – with reopening schools the top priority.

But Liverpool Council's cabinet member for Health, Cllr Paul Brant says that if too much is loosened too quickly, it could be disastrous for a city like Liverpool – and lead to a further lockdown.

The city's infection rate has dropped significantly, but still stands at over 200 cases per 100,000.

In December, the rate here was down to around 80 cases per 100,000 when Liverpool was placed into Tier 2 and hospitality venues were allowed to reopen after the November lockdown.

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Local health bosses have since said that was a mistake, with rates soaring by more than ten times within a month.

Cllr Brant said: "Infection levels have reduced substantially since the peak, but they are still way over the summer levels.

"The government mustn’t release the lockdown too early as the city will just have an infection explosion and we will be doomed to repeat lockdown again in a few months.

"It’s only at low infection levels where a test trace and isolate scheme isn’t overwhelmed.

"It’s important to remember that a lockdown is a damaging last ditch way of controlling the virus. The test, trace and isolate schemes have prevented lockdowns in countries which have a better pandemic response."

He added: "It is essential that we keep up the city’s effort to clamp down on the virus.

"Our amazing collective action has rapidly reduced infection levels, but with the increasing prevalence of more infectious strains it is essential that we don’t drop out guard until vaccines are fully rolled out for all."

He said if things move too quickly it could lead to another lockdown, which would be disastrous for Liverpool.

He said: "The point of the lockdown is to drive down infection levels – to that extent it has worked, but only at great economic and personal cost to families and schooling.

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"As the new strains circulate we must keep an eagle eye on their progress. A short sharp early intervention prevents a subsequent longer damaging intervention."

He said he still has deep concerns about the heavily criticised track and trace system – particularly the lack of support given to those who are told to isolate.

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In some parts of Liverpool, figures show that as many as 80% of applications for the government's isolation support payment scheme are refused.

Cllr Brant said: "We desperately need the test trace and isolate scheme to work.

"There must be proper full sick pay for those asked to self-isolate – otherwise people are forced to choose between feeding their families and self-isolating for the benefit of wider society."

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