HEALTH chiefs in Hartlepool have warned Covid-19 rates in the area still need to decrease further, amid concerns the decline is flattening out.

Craig Blundred, director of public health in Hartlepool, provided an update to the Hartlepool Health and Wellbeing Board on steps being taken to combat the pandemic in the area.

He noted it has been a challenging year for Hartlepool, but Covid-19 cases have dropped significantly since Christmas, with the area having a seven day case rate of around 168 per 100,000, as of Monday’s meeting.

However, he warned the decline is starting to flatten, and the figures need to be coming down further with the end of lockdown now being spoken about.

Mr Blundred said: “We did have over Christmas and early January our highest rates, going up towards 800 cases per 100,000 for a seven day period, which was a significant proportion of the cases.

“We’ve come down quite significantly from that in the lockdown period, in fact we’ve come down quite rapidly in terms of the numbers, we’re down to around about 168.

“While that has been a brilliant achievement by everyone in the borough, we’re starting to see it slowing down that decline, and I think that’s one of the worries for me at the moment as we start to head towards coming out of lockdown.

“We wanted to get the figures well below 200 per 100,000, which we’re working towards there with that figure, but it’s still very high, we really need to be getting down below 100, I think some areas in the North-East are starting to see that, but our numbers are starting to flatten off.”

He added other areas across the Tees Valley are seeing similar issues to Hartlepool, and they are planning to do a ‘deep dive’ to find out more information on the reasons why this might be the case.

However Mr Blundred said there were positives for Hartlepool and there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, but warned residents cannot relax now and must still follow guidelines in place.

He said: “It’s been quite a challenging year for Hartlepool given the fact that we’ve had a much higher case rate than the England national figures.

“We can’t relax, we can’t be getting complacent, because that’s still far too high for the numbers.

“We are starting to see some positives and there is light at the end of the tunnel, but again going back to the fact our rates are still higher than we would want them to be, we can’t relax our guard at all at the moment.”

He added Hartlepool will still be living with Covid-19 ‘for some time yet’ and work will have to be done for how they will deal with any future outbreaks, once numbers drop quite significantly further.

At the meeting Deepak Dwarakanath, from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, also warned there could likely be further waves of Covid-19 later in the year.

He said: “Pessimistically there will be a wave again towards the autumn, there will be a resurgence either due to new variants, non-compliance with vaccines etc etc.

“So we’ve got to prepare ourselves for what will come back to us in September, October really.”