'Extremely small' number of coronavirus cases in South Tyneside - health chief gives details on how borough has fared during pandemic

New cases of COVID-19 have been ‘extremely small’ in South Tyneside for the last two months.

Thursday, 30th July 2020, 6:00 am
A laboratory technician wearing full PPE cleans a test tube containing a live sample taken from people tested for the novel coronavirus (Photo by Andrew Milligan / POOL / AFP)

Early in the outbreak official data seemed to show the borough had one of the highest infection rates in the country.

But according to the most recent figures it has fallen down the list of worst affected areas, although it still remains high overall, relative to the rest of England.

“At various points South Tyneside had significantly higher rates of new cases of COVID-19 on a rolling day by day basis,” said Tom Hall, director of public health at South Tyneside Council.

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“This more or less followed the broad pattern across the North East and in England, but since the early part of June we’ve had extremely small numbers of new cases, which is a very positive thing.

“There is a challenge in that the more you test the more you tend to find.

“I can confirm we do seem to be continuing to be testing a lot across the borough – our testing numbers are very positive.”

Hall was speaking at a meeting of South Tyneside CCG’s governing body, which was held by video conference and broadcast via Youtube.

Hall told the committee the borough had ‘quite a lot of testing’ in the early stages of the pandemic and also claimed testing capacity had been expanded faster than in other areas.

This included testing in care homes and in private homes for those who were unable to get to test centres.

“We had a very expansive testing strategy and that meant we found more COVID in the early stages,” he added.

This fed into data reported nationally, which placed South Tyneside, Sunderland and Gateshead, which shared a testing regime, among the worst affected parts of the country.

But once further results from the national testing scheme, which included the drive-in test centre at Ikea, were factored in, other areas overtook the borough.

Hall said: “Our rate only went up by 25%, compared to a lot of other areas which had quite large increases in their local rates.

“South Tyneside dropped from having the third highest cumulative rate to down to about 23 or 24 in the country.

“It doesn’t mean we haven’t struggled, but we haven’t struggled as much as the public data might have suggested.”

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