How fast are cases rising in the Liverpool City Region?
We look at the latest Covid-19 data, plus the rest of the weekly briefing
Dear readers — today’s briefing is focused on the rising Covid-19 case rates across the Liverpool City Region. We also have a selection of virtual things to do, a lovely Victorian home of the week in Southport and some recommended reads to keep you occupied in the run-up to Christmas.
Our weekend read by Robin Brown was about the new £27m Shakespeare theatre in Prescot and the effect its imminent arrival is having on the town. Read that piece here.
Lots of members enjoyed Harry Shukman’s reporting about the political intrigue in Sefton last week. You can read that piece here if you’re a Post member. Last week, we also published a members-only story by Mollie Simpson about a flurry of new Instagram accounts which track the movements of Merseyside Police. Read that one here.
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☁️ This week’s weather
📈 The big story: Omicron cases shoot up in Liverpool
Top line: Covid-19 case rates have been very stable in the Liverpool City Region since August — now they are beginning to rise a bit faster.
The numbers: The case rate for the Liverpool City Region is 565.4, up 22.5% from the previous week. Cases are rising slightly more sharply in Liverpool, at 576.1, up 26.1% from last week.
For comparison, rates are currently higher in Greater Manchester and are also growing much faster too: their case rate is over 700 and is up 60% in a week.
The rate across England is 782.5, up just under 50% in a week.
Zoom in: Case rates are very similar across the city region. New cases are highest in Halton at the moment and lowest in St Helens. Rates in Halton are highest among 5-14 year olds, and have recently risen among older age groups too. As always, levels of testing are a factor in case rates.
What about hospitals? The big question is how these higher rates, which are driven by the Omicron variant (plus the fact that the Omicron variant means many more people are taking tests) are going to translate into hospital admissions. Given how recently rates started rising, it’s probably too early to answer that question.
The latest data from Liverpool Combined Authority shows Covid-19 hospital admissions are pretty flat — there were 29 Covid patients on mechanical ventilation last week, compared to 28 the previous week.
So far, we haven’t seen any significant increase in Covid-19 hospital admissions in the North West.
The booster programme seems to be making very quick progress locally. The graphic below shows the extent of vaccination across the city region as of Thursday, with the Wirral, St Helens and Sefton all nearing the landmark of having 50% of adults boosted. In the over-50s age group, the numbers look even better, with Sefton, St Helens and the Wirral reaching towards 80%. A less positive line in the figures below: Only 63.1% of residents in Liverpool are double jabbed, which could spell trouble in the weeks ahead.
How bad is Omicron? Clearly, it is very transmissible — the data from South Africa and the early data in this country show that. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the severity of the new variant — i.e. what proportion of people who get it will end up being very sick.
Research done by Prof Ravi Gupta at Cambridge University suggests Omicron “may be less effective at attacking the lungs than Delta,” reports the Guardian, adding: “The finding chimes with University of Hong Kong research that found Omicron replicated 70 times faster than older variants in the bronchial tubes, but is less likely to infect the lungs.”
In a fascinating interview, Francois Balloux from UCL told New York magazine: “It’s a really major question. And sadly, I don’t think we can extrapolate anything from South Africa, really. We don’t actually even know the vaccine status of the hospitalized… I think in the U.K. in two weeks’ time we’d be pretty comfortable saying, these are the numbers and these are the patterns.”
Metro mayor Steve Rotheram and Liverpool mayor Joanne Anderson have both signed a letter to the government, which says:
The restrictions — and your government’s own advice — mean people are staying home, while the lack of financial support means that businesses up and down the country are forced to pay the price.
Another lockdown? After a cabinet meeting today, The Times reports that “Boris Johnson is unlikely to impose further coronavirus restrictions before Christmas after delaying a decision today”. The paper’s political editor tweeted this afternoon: “The more likely scenario — as disclosed by The Times at the weekend — is a two-week circuit breaker after Christmas. The 28th has been pencilled in by officials as the starting point for the new curbs”.
Other local news in brief
The rollout of mass rapid testing in Liverpool last December cut the number of people needing hospital treatment for Covid by 32%, according to a study by the Institute of Population Health. Around 45% of the city region’s 1.5 million residents took part and 34 Covid-19 cases were identified, with only three missed by lateral flow tests. Evaluation lead professor Iain Buchan said the results showed lateral flows could be used to keep the NHS functioning during the Omicron wave. Read more.
A new coffee shop that will provide training and employment for homeless people will open in Liverpool in early 2022. The initiative is a collaboration between the charity the Paper Cup Project and a team of volunteers from the global agriculture company Cargills. Katie Bamber, a Cargills employee said: “I felt like during the COVID-19 pandemic there was so much emphasis on ‘staying home to keep safe’ and it is so easy to forget that lots of people don’t have homes.” Read more.
A man interviewed by the Echo outside “gambler’s row” in Huyton Village described the problem of gambling addiction in the borough and says most of his friends gamble as well. He said: “I don't know of any places to go to stop it. I've been gambling since I was 16 and I don't know of anywhere you can go to get help.” Knowsley is home to 34 betting shops and a recent survey by Public Health England found that 80% of people surveyed in the borough had gambled in the last 12 months. Read more.
Home of the week
This three-bedroom Victorian flat has a roof terrace with views over the Southport coastline and lovely stained glass windows. It’s on the market for £595,000.
Our favourite reads
There’s a lovely story in the Atlantic about The Brink, Liverpool’s charity-owned modern dry bar which provides a safe space for recovering alcoholics to enjoy an evening without getting drunk. There’s a great passage about the lively and vibrant atmosphere inside which contrasts with the Victorian “temperance bars” that served ginger beers in a dreary and puritanical setting. Read more.
We loved this review in the Times Literary Supplement, which discusses the failures of modernism in Liverpool. David Kynaston writes: “The whole phenomenon, involving the sudden loss of so many intricate and familiar local environments, left a powerful legacy which half a century on still resonates strongly: a sharply reduced faith in progress; a widespread nostalgia, especially among many older people, for a lost world; and a desire to retrieve local identities from the commercial and consumerist monolith.” Read more.
It was two women from Wallasey who trained the country’s first guide dogs — Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond began training German Shepherds when servicemen returned after the First World War with vision impairment or total blindness. This Big Issue North feature tells the story of their pioneering work, and the mission of the guide dogs charity today. A charity leader said: “Vision impairment is on the increase. I think sometimes in modern society, we tend to think that problems like that can be partly solved.” Read more.
The latest issue of Bido Lito! looks at the recent vandalism of LGBT artworks as a reminder of the entrenched problem of homophobia in the city. Matthew Berks writes that we must acknowledge Liverpool has a long way to go to become a truly inclusive space — adding that “the belief in the city’s infallible exceptionalism is not only grossly tone-deaf — it’s something that should make all of us very uncomfortable indeed.” Read more.
Photo of the week
🎻 The Philharmonic has some beautiful new concerts coming online to watch in HD. The latest is a lively welcome event featuring the waltzes of Richard Strauss, Ravel and Latin rhythms. Concerts will be led by Chief Conductor Domingo Hindoyan. Tickets are priced at £10, or £32 (what you would normally pay to watch a concert). Book here.
🎞 It’s a Wonderful Life is showing at FACT tomorrow afternoon if you need some festive cheer. It’s rated universal, so you can bring the whole family along. Book here.
🎨 The Parallel Hopes exhibition at Adelia Art Gallery in Wavertree is a beautiful exploration of synesthesia — the perceptual phenomenon which means someone can visualise things they hear, and associate colours with words. It’s a collaboration between musician Christian Burns and artist Parin Heidari, who creates paintings based on Burns’ ethereal musical works. It’s free to visit, just book a slot. Details here.
🎙 BBC Sounds have a great selection of podcasts about the role of Merseyside in the World Wars— we recommend this story about how the School of Tropical Medicine played a vital role in controlling and reducing the malaria outbreak. Listen here.
👯♀️ The Liverpool dance music quartet Girls Don’t Sync were among the latest local talent to perform at the Lost Lounge, which is now free to view online. A review of the gig in Bido Lito! said: “Spinning classic vocal samples including Destiny’s Child and Lauryn Hill over eclectic beats, they slip in and out of genres like skipping through a flip book of music.” You can watch the full set here.
Letters from readers
A great summary of the business folk who are backing Prescot through tough times (‘What’s past is prologue: How Shakespeare came to Prescot’). I would add that Knowsley Council have played a massive part in this in actually getting the theatre built and deserve recognition for their vision & commitment throughout, Mike
We came away full of hope — that's how Robin Brown's article on the rebirth of Prescot made us feel. A really well-researched piece of journalism in The Post. You might need to be a subscriber to read it, Liverpolitan