Alarm bells are ringing which suggest the new highly infectious variant of COVID-19 has taken root in Eden after cases have tripled in the district over the last 10 days.
Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health said: “The number of cases we are seeing has gone hugely up.
“The rate in Eden at the moment is at least 345 cases per 100,000 population per week and that is by a very, very long way the highest that Eden has seen in this outbreak so far.
“If you go back 10 days to the 10th December, Eden was on 108 to 109 – so it has tripled in 10 days, said Mr Cox.
Across the county’s six districts, rates range from 40 per 100,000 in Copeland to Eden’s number.
The Eden infection rate is the now the highest seen in Cumbria to date.
Given the way Eden’s figures are at the moment, Mr Cox said: “If we were in this situation last week, I suspect the Government might have decided to put places in Cumbria up a tier.”
A spokesman for Cumbria County Council said: “The new variant has been positively identified in a small number of cases in the county and while the extent to which it is responsible for the rapid rise in Eden is not yet certain, the pattern of infection and unusually rapid spread is highly suggestive.
“At the moment scientists believe the new variant of the virus is more infectious and does spread faster, but as yet there is no evidence it is more dangerous to health.”
Mr Cox added: “It’s pretty clear that while it is the South East of England that is having the worst of it right now, this new variant is already present in most parts of the country.
“Only a small number of cases have been positively identified in Cumbria, but what is happening in Eden, which throughout the pandemic has had low levels of infection and now has the highest we’ve seen, points to something different going on.
“In particular, the way we have seen some outbreaks develop in recent days has been very different to what we’ve seen before.
“There’s no evidence that it’s more dangerous, but it does infect many more people and that’s a real worry, both for individuals and for our hospitals which are already dealing with high numbers of COVID patients.
“The best way of keeping this in check hasn’t changed: wash your hands regularly, wear a face covering in enclosed spaces, give people space and avoid crowds – especially over Christmas. If we don’t act there is a significant risk of a large third wave in January bringing further lockdowns and putting health services under a huge amount of pressure”.