ON Tuesday August 2 Blackburn with Darwen had a Covid-19 case rate of 217 per 100,000 – about one third lower than the England average.

Case rates have continued to fall consistently for ten days after a slight rise due the indoor mixing during Euros, a phenomenon also seen across the UK.

Although testing rates are down, a significant percentage of this will be because fewer people are seeking tests now as fewer will have Covid symptoms. Testing rates in Blackburn with Darwen are still historically quite high at 434 per 100,000. The test positivity rate is also falling, now at 7.71 per cent of all tests taken.

East Lancashire Hospitals Trust hospitalised in-patients with a Covid diagnosis has fallen to 43. Hospitalisation rates will lag behind the reduction in case rates by about three weeks. The hospitalisation rate is well behind its peak in this Delta wave of 62.

Just seven of the 43 current inpatients were from Blackburn with Darwen. Five of the seven had not been vaccinated-sending a strong message to ‘get the jab now’.

As of the beginning of August, The North West region as a whole saw a two per cent fall in Covid hospital admissions. All other English regions Covid hospital admission rates are still rising. This is likely to be a timing issue as the North-West was the first to have the Delta wave.

There is a lot of debate at the moment about whether the nationally reported case rate is now accurate, with a suspicion that many people are simply not getting tested as they don’t want to blight their chances of a summer holiday. There is probably some truth in this.

The conclusion for now is that the real rate will be more than the reported case rate but that the real levels of Covid have at least plateaued – and are likely to continue to fall as vaccination provides more population immunity over the summer. This will probably last until mid-autumn when a likely further slow rise is predicted. However, by then many more will be protected by vaccination. Many over 50 years old by that time will also have had a booster jab. So any autumn or winter rise may well prove to be confined to a 'pandemic of the unvaccinated'.

With summer holidays in full swing, what do we know about our risks of being infected as a result of foreign travel? For both Blackburn with Darwen and Lancashire as a whole, a clear pattern is emerging.

In the last week of July, Blackburn with Darwen had 39 Covid cases reported that were linked to travel abroad. The country generating the most infections was Spain with 10 out of the 39 cases. We need to be cautious in interpreting this. Whilst risks may be higher in Spain than some other countries, it is likely that this data is just telling us that, relatively speaking, most of our residents who are travelling abroad this summer are currently holidaying in Spain.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported yesterday that Spain has been grappling with a fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The 14-day case rate was 134 per 100,000 at the beginning of July, and 687 at the end.

However the trend now appears to be changing with cases falling. It seems unlikely therefore that the UK will put Spain on the ‘red list’, which would require returnees to quarantine in expensive hotels.