05:30PM, Thursday 07 January 2021
Slough reached an unwanted milestone this week as it recorded an infection rate higher than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people for the first time.
A total of 1,599 people tested positive for the virus between December 29 and January 4, meaning the borough is now in the top 30 local authorities with the highest infection rate.
The surge in cases has led to a significant increase in hospital admissions with the latest statistics from NHS England revealing 453 COVID-19 patients are now occupying beds at the Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Councillor Natasa Pantelic, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said she was ‘devastated’ by the huge rise in case numbers and urged everyone to play their part in reducing the pressure on the NHS.
She said: “For people who are still saying ‘this really is nothing’, if you have really high infection rates that does translate into hospital admissions and that’s what we’re seeing now.
“I just want everyone to think about all those nurses, all those doctors and all those people that are working on the frontline and if you don’t follow the rules you’re making their job far more difficult.”
The milestone came as England started a new national lockdown this week.
The majority of school pupils are now learning remotely from home and the extremely vulnerable have been asked to shield.
Announcing the lockdown on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said new measures were necessary as a new strain of the virus – believed to be 50-70 per cent more transmissible than the previous strain – continues to spread rapidly across the country.
If it continues, the NHS could be overwhelmed in 21 days, the Prime Minister said.
Most non-urgent operations and appointments at the Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust were postponed this week to try and cope with the rising COVID-19 patient numbers.
Plans are still in place for the rollout of mass testing in Slough by the end of the month with the council hoping to identify asymptomatic cases among those aged 17-21 and vulnerable groups.
New static testing centres are expected to be launched in Slough and Langley where people will be able to book a lateral flow test and receive their results within 30 minutes.
Cllr Pantelic added: “I think that will be a really important game changer for us as a town because testing has been a key benefit for us in bringing case numbers down.”
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is also continuing for the borough’s at-risk groups and those invited to have the jab have been urged to do so.
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