Cambridgeshire gets extra help to tackle rising Covid crisis

Jyoti Atri director of public health in Cambridgeshire

Jyoti Atri, director of public health in Cambridgeshire, have urged schools to stay cautious as Covid-19 restrictions ease. - Credit: LDRS

Escalating rates of Covid-19 in much of the county – including Fenland, East Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire – prompted an urgent response from health chiefs.  

The Government has designated Cambridgeshire and Peterborough a Coronavirus Enhanced Response Area (ERA). 

This will provide additional resources to vaccination roll-out, introduce new measures in schools and step-up pro vaccine publicity.  

New measures will be in place for at least five weeks before they are reviewed.


Ayoti Atri, director of public health for Cambridgeshire, said: “We are concerned about the rapid increase in cases among the over 60s as well as the consequences for the health service”  

Hospitals were under “immense pressure because of direct admissions and pressures to recoup under activity in the last 18 months”. 

She said ERA would give additional leverage and resources that would include driving home the message that our are rates are high and therefore for people to continue with protective behaviour. 

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Funds will be available to speed up vaccinations in schools and the booster campaign for adults. 

In schools face coverings will be compulsory in communal areas and there will be reduced on site visits to schools. 

Cllr Richard Howitt, chair of the adults and health committee, welcomed the ERA status.  

Cambs County Councillor Richard Howitt

Cllr Richard Howitt “The Covid pandemic has reached a challenging stage for us.” - Credit: Archant

“We need it to happen,” he said. “The Covid pandemic has reached a challenging stage for us.” 

In east Cambs the number of cases are as high as at any time during the pandemic, he said.  

Rates for South Cambs, Huntingdonshire and Fenland were well above the national average.  

And Cambridge city had seen a 27 per cent increase in cases within the last seven days and was doubling in the city every two weeks. 

In the 5 to 10-year-old group, more than 1 in 8 children were off school because of the spread during term time of Covid. 

In our hospitals, he said, there was fast becoming a “deep strain” on the health service with two of the county hospitals at 99 per cent and 100 per cent occupancy. 

At Hinchingbrooke Hospital, he said, Covid cases had doubled in a week.  

“In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, we could have twice the number of Covid patients in hospitals than is currently the case within the next six weeks,” he said.  

There was deep concern vaccination rates locally were well below the national average. 

There was a low uptake in parts of Cambridge, Fenland, East Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. 

"I have to say as a councillor from the joint administration, Covid safe behaviours have waned and that is part of our deep concern,” he said. 

The ERA status will enable the county to “drive up vaccine uptake, take extra actions in schools and restore those safe behaviours”. 

Cambridgeshire health chiefs had taken “leadership locally to protect lives and protect people”. 

Cllr Howitt said: “Our county council will do everything possible.” 

I asked Cllr Howitt at a press conference on Friday why political leaders allowed some councillors to push against vaccinations and restrictions.  

“Some politicians locally dish the whole idea of restrictions and vaccines yet no one in leadership is telling them to ‘just shut up’”, I put to Cllr Howitt.  

Cllr Howitt said the national infection rate was 482 per 100,000, in Fenland it was 50 per cent higher at 602 cases per 100,000. 

He said he would appeal to colleagues across Fenland that ERA status was not a political judgement but a health decision.  

“The Covid pandemic is so urgent in Fenland and Cambridgeshire it is time to act,” he said.  

“I won’t play politics, that is not the right approach, 

“But I will admonish everyone who is an anti vaxxer spreading myths about vaccination and contributing to a lower level of vaccination that is directly leading to Covid cases spiralling upwards. “ 

He said many of those in hospital today are those who have not been vaccinated.  

Cllr Howitt appealed for the message "to be heard and I want people to be vaccinated”.