EASTER is upon us — and with a much-welcome four-day weekend for Cheshire to enjoy, there’s some good news on the Covid-19 fightback front

That’s because after a small wobble in new case numbers, the county looks to be back on track with getting infections down — albeit slowly.

However, that’s alongside strong vaccination progress and falling hospital admissions.

So, where is Cheshire now and where has it come from?

What went wrong?

Essentially, the fall in cases stopped falling at the same rate as it had been for a few weeks.

During the last Local Democracy Reporting Service Weekend Feature, it was reported that Cheshire East’s rolling seven-day infection rate had jumped around the 50-something range for a week or so.

However, the situation was more concerning in Cheshire West and Chester, because the rate actually rose to 70.5 cases per 100,000 residents on March 26 — it was 59.2 nine days earlier.

“This is a cause for concern. We have been stuck at a level of 60 per 100,000 now for about three or four weeks,” said CWAC chief executive Andrew Lewis on March 23.

“I think this was discussed at the last meeting [on March 10] and since then we have carried on with the similar level of community infection as measured by the number of positive tests.”

Mr Lewis pointed to the reopening of schools, and associated increase in testing, as one reason as to why the rates are climbing — but he said the main driver was a continuation of workplace outbreaks.

What about now?

Rates have begun to fall again. In Cheshire East, the figure is 45 per 100,000 — 14 per cent lower than it was a week ago.

In the western half of the county, it’s now 64.1 — a more modest drop of 6.4 per cent.

In fact, the progress in CEC has led to council leader Sam Corcoran to say that the borough has ‘a great opportunity now to get on top of the virus over this spring and summer.

Northwich Guardian: Data: NHS EnglandData: NHS England

Speaking on Twitter on Wednesday morning (March 31), Cllr Sam Corcoran said: “I would like to echo the words of national England medical director Prof Stephen Powis in recognising the enormous progress that has been made — but also to recognise for coronavirus to wreak more havoc and ill health on a significant scale.

“I share his concerns about the potential for new variants to emerge, but we do have a great opportunity now to get on top of the virus over this spring and summer when the weather will help to keep infection rates down.”

It’s worth noting that, although confidence remains high, that lingering fear of a new wave persists.

It has prompted Ian Ashworth, CWAC’s director of public health, to issue a warning to residents over Easter.

Northwich Guardian:

He said: “None of us want to see a third wave of this dreadful virus and it is poignant that this relaxation of the rules follows closely after the recent Day of Remembrance and the commemoration of the 126,000 lives lost to Covid-19 in the UK alone over the last 12 months. That’s more than 10,000 people a month, 345 people every day.

“So please be cautious — keep travel to the minimum, stay local, remember the rule of six and hands, face, space and fresh air. We all need a break this Easter, but let’s enjoy it carefully and keep that infection rate down.”

How is the NHS doing?

The vaccination programme continues to go well. The latest NHS England data, to March 28, shows that 60 per cent of the over-16 population in Cheshire and Merseyside have had their first dose.

Northwich Guardian:

That includes 95 per cent of Cheshire’s over-50 residents.

Indeed, the county's rate of 94.7 per cent is also the leading figure in the Cheshire and Merseyside sub-region, ahead of eight other NHS areas.

Hospitals are also becoming less and less busy — with 42 patients in the three Cheshire NHS Trusts as of March 30, compared to 54 a week earlier.

Can we kick back and relax yet?

The scenes of mass crowds enjoying some spring sunshine across English parks this week caused outrage on social media.

That’s for two reasons. First is litter, which was left behind in such quantities that in some cases it took the entire following day to clean up.

The other reason is that many coronavirus rules were allegedly broken — with groups of more than six mixing with each other.

Looking at the data for Cheshire, that anger could be justified if similar scenes took place.

Infection rates around the 50-mark may sound good compared to what they were in January — and it is excellent progress — but it’s also worth remembering that these rates are similar to the levels seen when Cheshire entered the tier system in autumn.

So, we should be pleased with the progress, absolutely, but it’s far from over.