The new UK COVID-19 variant is now believed to be responsible for around one in every five cases of the virus detected in Leeds, new figures have revealed.
Residents and communities across the city are being urged to stay home whenever possible and keep contact with others to an absolute minimum as instances of the highly contagious B117 variant increase.
The latest testing information also shows 344.2 cases per 100,000 people tested, with cases thought to be spreading at the fastest rate in the 20-35 age group.
Case numbers in Leeds have shown some slight fluctuations in the past few days, with more cases of the UK variant, thought to spread much more easily, being picked up during testing. Before Christmas, the variant was believed to be responsible for around just one in 20 local cases.
In light of this, the council is once again reminding everyone across the city to take every possible precaution to prevent the spread of the virus and keep the city safe.
Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “We have reached a critical stage in our long fight against this dreadful virus, which we know has already taken such a devastating toll on our city and its communities.
“As the rollout of vaccines accelerates, there is at last a real, tangible hope that finally, we are nearing the end of the worst stages of this terrible pandemic and may be able to start thinking towards the future sooner rather than later.
“However, the appearance of this highly contagious new variant means that until that time comes, it is absolutely imperative that we do not become complacent and do all that we can to prevent the virus spreading and cases increasing to the point where our local NHS services become overwhelmed.
“Leeds has shown remarkable grit and resolve throughout the pandemic and as we enter the final stretch, we need to call on those reserves once more to keep our families, loved ones, friends and neighbours safe.”
The council is continuing to work closely with health partners on a major rollout of vaccinations, with vaccination sites being set up at venues across the city and tens of thousands of vulnerable residents and key workers in high priority groups already receiving their first jabs.
Local GPs are working to provide vaccinations to as many care home residents and patients aged 80 as possible. In the coming weeks, the first community pharmacies will be starting to offer vaccinations and four large vaccination centres are being set up in West Yorkshire, including Elland Road.
Across the city’s care home network, efforts to protect some of the city’s most vulnerable have also seen vaccines given to 889 residents and 1,626 staff.
Victoria Eaton, Leeds City Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Working alongside our partners in the NHS, we are making good progress in ensuring Leeds has a comprehensive and robust network of vaccine sites, equipped to cope with what will be one of the single greatest collective efforts the city and the country has ever seen.
“While it’s hugely encouraging to see vaccinations taking place, this new variant carries with it a real danger that cases could grow exponentially and our efforts to control the spread of the virus and protect local health services may consequently be placed in serious jeopardy.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but staying home, minimising contact with others and following the latest guidance around hygiene and social distancing must remain at the forefront of our minds over the coming months.”
Everyone in Leeds can do their bit to help fight the spread of COVID-19 by:
- Staying home as much as you can and minimising contact with others when you do need to go out. Acting as though you have the virus is the best way to stay safe.
- Regularly washing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Wearing a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
- Staying two metres apart from people you do not live with where possible.
- Ensuring work venues are as COVID secure as possible.
- Remembering that if you’ve had your vaccination or previously tested positive for COVID-19, it’s important that everyone still follows the rules to keep us all safe.
More information and support for residents can be found here: www.leeds.gov.uk/coronavirus.
Support for businesses can be found here: www.leeds.gov.uk/coronavirus/business