East Riding Council director of public health Andy Kingdom said the next 10 days would likely be the worst in his field in “a generation” as infection rates continue to climb.
The director added that while the county was doing better than 300 other local authority areas, peaks in neighboring North Yorkshire could still spread into East Riding.
Mr Kingdom also said the newer variants of the coronavirus did not appear more dangerous but were more contagious and called on residents to redouble their efforts to follow government guidelines.
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It comes as official figures released today (Friday, January 8) showed 11 people have died from the virus in hospitals in Hull in the past three days. A total of 237 cases have been recorded in East Yorkshire in the past 24 hours, according to the same data.
Mr Kingdom said those numbers were still high despite being lower than in other parts of the country.
The director said: “The concern now is that it is enough to see a slight uptick in the numbers to put hospitals in a very difficult position, which is what is happening in the south.
“The next 10 days will be really bad nationally, it will be among the worst in public health in a generation and things will get worse before they get better.
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“I expect the number of cases to continue to rise before peaking and dropping as we see the effects of the lockdown, but people have to buy into it for it to work. ”
The director said the current rollout of vaccination was a “ray of sunshine” but warned “massive exercise” would take time and urged residents to be patient.
He said: “I know the NHS staff are pushing hard on this and it will accelerate.
“We haven’t set up mass vaccination sites yet, but in East Riding a single big center wouldn’t really do, we have to get it to Bridlington, Hornsea, etc.
“I was at the Beverley Race Course getting my mother-in-law vaccinated and it was full of happy seniors, it was very positive.
“The numbers are not yet known, but it looks like our region is doing very well on deployment, but there is not enough to immunize all vulnerable people now, I wish that was the case. ”
Mr Kingdom said that while a feared rise in infections after Christmas and New Years had not materialized, the numbers were still rising and the new strains presented a challenge.
He said, “When you hear ‘mutant strain’ it sounds like something out of a zombie apocalypse, but viruses are constantly mutating when they replicate, so we expected that.
“The problem with the newer strains is that they’re sticky to the cells and easier to catch, so if you were likely enough to catch the virus, you are now more susceptible.
“There was work done in Texas this week that shows the Pfizer vaccine still works on at least the newer strains.
“They also appeared before people started to receive injections, so it should still work in the majority of cases, otherwise we can adapt the vaccine but we are monitoring the situation. ”
Mr Kingdom said the next 10 days would be “crucial” in bringing the virus back under control.
The director said: “I think things will improve as we approach April, more people will be vaccinated, the weather will be warmer and people will gather more outside.
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“These conditions make it harder for the virus to survive, but now I want people to treat this lockdown more like the March lockdown than the November lockdown.
“If I could, I would take people to our hospitals and nursing homes so they could see the kind of pressure they are under.
“People should look back in the years to come and ask themselves: what did I do during this? ”