Covid-19 in Greater Manchester: more people are going into hospital with Covid warns Salford health boss

Council chiefs also slammed the end of free testing and the impact it could have as Covid rates rise.
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More people are going into hospital with Covid, and more people are contracting Covid in hospital despite going in with a different ailment, according to a Salford health boss.

The Government’s decision to scrap free lateral flow tests has been slammed by councillors as they received concerning statistics of Covid hospital numbers rising.

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Gillian McLauchlan, deputy director of public health, addressed the Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel as she gave her Covid-19 update with news of increasing coronavirus cases and Covid-related hospital admissions.

She echoed the words of her Wigan counterpart, professor Kate Ardern, who earlier in the week had similar news for the councillors in Wigan regarding Covid and scarlet fever.

Prof Kate Ardern, director of public health for Wigan CouncilProf Kate Ardern, director of public health for Wigan Council
Prof Kate Ardern, director of public health for Wigan Council

According to the seven-day case rate data up to 1 April, there were 1,467 cases of Covid in Salford. The current case rate per 100,000 people is 558.4.

“As you are all aware the free testing is now gone and they are only available for those in a high risk setting,” Ms McLauchlan said.

“We are still dealing with outbreaks in the city.

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“We are still providing public health advice to those who are deemed high risk.

“We have a statutory duty to protect our population. But now we do not have any extra funding [for buying Lateral Flow Tests for healthcare workers].

“We still have high rates in the city and when you see that you do get higher hospital admissions as a result.

“We are getting large groups who are coming into hospital with something else and then getting tested and finding out they have Covid.

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“We are also starting to see scarlet fever cases rising across Greater Manchester as well.”

She explained that they had taken steps of warning schools of the cases in order to prevent further transmission of the virus.

Members of the scrutiny panel were critical of the Government’s decision to scrap the free Covid tests – and the deputy health director suggested that more Covid cases would go unrecognised in Salford compared to more affluent areas of the country.

Deputy City Mayor Coun John Merry, lead member for Adult Services, Health and Wellbeing, was openly critical of the Conservative government at the meeting.

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“The number of cases is rising,” he said. “I really think that getting rid of testing has been a very big mistake on behalf of the Government.

“I think this whole strategy is starting to unravel.”

Fears for care workers

This sentiment was shared by Coun Margaret Morris who was worried this put care workers at greater risk as they go from home to home.

Coun Arnold Saunders tried to defend the Government’s decision to scrap the free LFTs by stating the tests were available for £2 at pharmacies – which Coun Merry said could be used as an excuse by people who want to avoid getting a positive test.

Coun Jim Dawson went on to raise the point that Covid is still mutating with the latest sub-variant of Omicron causing fatigue-like symptoms – his concern was that it may turn more dangerous with further mutation.

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“We are still in quite an unstable position with Covid at the moment,” the deputy health director told him concurring. 

Before that she explained that they have to follow current government policy on this matter.

She confirmed that the nature of the virus is still not in the position like that of the flu – where its mutation is more predictable.