'Sombre milestone' as North Yorkshire passes 1,000 Covid-19 deaths
The latest figures show that 1,006 people have lost their lives to the virus since the start of the pandemic, in what Richard Webb, Director of Health and Adult Services for the county council described as a sombre milestone.
And as police warned about the importance of following lockdown rules, police revealed that a group of 11 people had visited Whitby from Manchester in recent days "to see the Abbey".
And Scarborough saw nearly half of the fines issued by police across North Yorkshire and York in the last week, which a senior officer described as being "the busiest in terms of enforcement since the third lockdown began".
Mr Webb, speaking at a press briefing organised by the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, said that of the 1,006 Covid-19 deaths 539 were in hospitals and 387 in care homes. The figures do not include the City of York.
He said: "Behind the numbers, our life stories and memories, and love. We remember today those 1,006 people, their loved ones, friends and families.
"And at least it gives us yet again a reminder that there are at least 1,006 very good reasons why we need to follow the rules and do everything we can to try and bring the infection rates down."
He said there had been an improvement in infection rates but they still remained high and that in care homes the virus "is still very live and present", with 77 settings having one or more cases.
Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, told the briefing that the 1,000 people who had died across the county were "not a statistic, they're family, friends and people who lived in our communities and we will remember them".
She said the picture in terms of infections had improved since last week and that the average number of cases in North Yorkshire was 121.3 per 100,000 people, below the national average of 192.8.
The highest rate was in Richmondshire at 150.8, with Selby at 136.8, Hambleton 123.4, Harrogate 132.5, Ryedale 115.6, Scarborough 104.8 and Craven 99.8.
After it emerged last week that two cases of the South African variant had been found in Scarborough, there have been no further cases since then and no evidence of community transmission.
And the numbers of people in hospital with Covid have fallen, though are still higher than during the first wave with 343 people in hospital and 44 in intensive care.
The number of Covid patients in hospital in Harrogate has fallen by three to 61, in York the total has fallen by 26 to 107, in Scarborough the number has dropped by 16 to 26 and in South Tees there has been a fall of 52 to 149.
There have been more than 175,000 first doses of the vaccine administered across North Yorkshire and York, and the briefing was told that the county expected to meet its target of vaccinating everyone in the top four priority groups by this weekend.
Anyone who is in the category of over 70s and Clinically Extremely Vulnerable who not yet been invited for a vaccination can now ring the national booking line on 119 (open from 7am to 11pm) or book an appointment online at: www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination.
Superintendent Mike Walker, North Yorkshire Police lead for the force’s Covid-19 response, said that "while North Yorkshire is a large place geographically we're also a close knit community in many ways so many of us will know someone who has been affected by coronavirus".
He added: "That feeling when you lose a loved one is something, myself and colleagues are working hard around the clock to try to prevent as many people as possible from experiencing by encouraging the public to continue to follow the rules by taking enforcement action against those who openly flout the rules.
"So whilst we've seen infection rates falling across the region, areas are still subject to fluctuation, rates are not falling quick enough to low enough levels, so we must keep going."
He revealed that a group of 11 people travelling from Manchester to Whitby at the weekend made up part of a record-breaking week for Covid-19 fines handed out by North Yorkshire Police.
In the last week, 169 fixed penalty notices were issued in the county, an increase of 26 on the previous seven days. Scarborough borough again was the worst offender with 76 fines dispensed, York was second with 37 followed by Craven with 21.
Supt Walker said: “Sadly, the weather did not seem to put anyone off. We are still dealing with people travelling long distances, making irresponsible visits and journeys in North Yorkshire.
“Over the weekend we had a group of 11 people travel from Manchester to Whitby to look at Whitby Abbey, people from Lancashire and Liverpool coming to the Dales and, sadly, a couple of incidents where some pubs decided it would be a good idea to open their doors and welcome customers in to watch rugby or play pool.
“Also house parties continue to be an issue that officers have to deal with. I can’t stress enough the risk these people are taking.”