Schools are set to close today (Friday) and many popular events have been cancelled as the coronavirus outbreak escalates.
As Your Local Paper went to press yesterday, the number of patients tested positive for COVID-19 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn was five – two more than last week.
Some schools had already closed earlier this week ahead of Wednesday’s government announcement due to “unsafe staffing levels” and the College of West Anglia closed its doors on Wednesday.
Schools will close indefinitely but some will remain open for the children of key workers including NHS staff, delivery drivers, children with a social worker or education, health and care plan, the government has said.
During the closure, work will still be set for pupils to do at home.
Lynn’s town centre had been quiet for most of the week, however, yesterday saw a surge of shoppers queuing outside supermarkets at the Hardwick Estate at 6am.
Following ongoing government advice, a raft of events across West Norfolk have now been cancelled or postponed.
On Wednesday evening the organisers of one of Europe’s largest non-ticketed music events, Festival Too, cancelled for the first time in the event’s 35-year history.
The festival’s Facebook page said: “This has been a heartbreaking decision to make but, in consultation with public health bodies and government advice, the committee feels that it would be inappropriate to continue with this year’s event, which typically sees more than 60,000 attend the festival over three weekends in July.
“This is not what we had hoped for during our 35th year celebrations, but we hope that you understand and respect our decision. We hope we can count on your support next year when we aim to have some belated 35th birthday celebrations.”
The Run for All 10k Grand East Anglia Run (GEAR) and Mini-GEAR around Lynn has been posted from Sunday, May 3 to Sunday, October 25. GEAR training sessions have also been postponed.
From 5pm today, all Alive West Norfolk venues, including Lynn’s Corn Exchange, Lynnsport, Oasis in Hunstanton and the centre at Downham Market, will close until the end of April.
An Alive spokesman said: “The health and wellbeing of our customers and staff is our top priority. We are continuing to monitor the situation and will update our website and social media with any new information.
“We want to assure all our members that we will not be taking any direct debits in April. All memberships will be frozen.”
In terms of shows, the spokesman continued: “We are liaising with promoters to try and rearrange as many dates as possible, with the aim of customers transferring their tickets to new dates, where available. If this isn’t possible gift vouchers or refunds will be issued.”
The Princess Theatre at Hunstanton has closed until Sunday, May 31 and the Majestic Cinema and St George’s Guildhall, both in Lynn, have also closed.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s chief nurse Libby McManus said on Tuesday an extensive contact tracing exercise was under way to trace anyone who might have had close contact with the patients who had tested positive for coronavirus, including relatives and hospital staff.
She said: “Close contacts to the patients concerned will be given health advice about symptoms and what to do if they become unwell in the 14 days after they had contact with the confirmed case.
“This tried and tested method will ensure that any risk to them is minimised and the wider public is protected.”
She said in the light of the new government advice, the hospital was prioritising “cancer and clinically urgent patients”.
All routine (non-urgent) outpatient appointments would be carried out by phone, where it was safe to do so, and patients should assume appointments had been cancelled unless heard otherwise.
“Only surgery relating to cancer or clinically-urgent cases will go ahead as planned.
“We will rearrange operations as soon as possible and apologise to patients for any inconvenience or distress this causes,” she said.
The hospital has launched a dedicated helpline for patients and families concerned about appointments, operations and general enquiries. The 01553 214545 number will be manned 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday.
Visiting restrictions remain in place, with exceptions including children’s wards, maternity and neonatal and relatives and friends of patients approaching end of life. Ward managers have been asked to use their discretion with visits.
People have been urged to protect themselves and be scrupulous with their hygiene, avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth. Cough or sneeze into tissues and bin them.
People have also been reminded that thorough hand washing helped to reduce the spread of the virus.
λ A new online advice hub has been launched to offer advice to people with early symptoms of coronavirus. People worried about symptoms are being told not to call NHS 111 to try to book a test, as Public Health England has recommended an end to routinely testing for coronavirus.
Anyone worried about having the virus should self-isolate, without calling or checking with NHS 111 first.
Travel and contact history is no longer important for diagnosis, which will now be made on the basis of symptoms – a new continuous cough or high temperature.
The NHS is urging people to visit the new online advice hub at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus for clear advice.
The new web page details the latest guidance for anyone experiencing possible early signs of coronavirus.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS said: “Everyone who has symptoms including a new continuous cough or high temperature should now stay at home and self-isolate, without needing to call or checking with NHS 111.
“As recommended by the chief medical officer, routine testing will now stop as it is unnecessary for those staying at home.”