THE latest COVID-19 data for the county published today shows the number of people in hospital increasing sharply, and 24 local people dying from the disease in the last seven days.

As of 10 November there were 222 people in hospital across Cumbria’s two NHS Trusts (64 in North Cumbria and 158 Morecambe Bay), up from 159 last week – a 40 per cent increase.

Despite welcome signs that infection spread may be slowing in some areas, the news has prompted warnings that people must respect national lockdown measures and follow the public health guidance.

Colin Cox, Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, said: “We know that there is a time delay between people being infected and being admitted to hospital, so what we are seeing now is people in hospital, and sadly dying, who were infected before the new lockdown started. Unfortunately, we would expect these numbers to continue to increase for a period, despite some welcome signs that infection spread is now slowing in some parts of the county.

“This is putting our hospitals under enormous pressure and it is absolutely essential that everyone sticks to the rules to help reduce transmission.

“We can see from the data for Barrow that the infection rate does come down when everyone takes action and I’d like to recognise the effort that people in Barrow have made to achieve that significant reduction. The whole county now needs to follow suit, so we can get infections down to manageable levels and avoid our NHS services being overwhelmed.”

Dr Jon Sturman, Clinical Director for Intensive Care for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Although, in the north of the county, we are not yet at the levels of hospitalisations we were in the first wave, cases in our hospitals have doubled in the last ten days. This highlights the seriousness of the situation and how important it is that we all act now so that services do not become overwhelmed.

“We don’t want to be in the position of cancelling or suspending other services. The virus does not spread itself, we spread it, so we are all responsible for slowing and stopping the spread. Washing your hands, wearing a face mask and keeping your distance is our best defence against this horrible virus at the moment. I have seen first-hand what a nasty virus this is. It can kill but it can also leave others with lasting debilitating effects.

“Please, not just to protect the NHS but also for your own protection, continue to do all you can to make sure this virus is kept under control.”

Dr Shahedal Bari, Executive Medical Director at UHMBT, said: “NHS services in Lancashire and South Cumbria continue to be under pressure and we are working together to ensure patients, with and without covid, are cared for safely whist ensuring that we can continue to see those who are waiting for treatment.

"Anyone with health concerns should continue to come forward for help and treatment when they need it and it is equally important that people continue to attend their appointments as planned.

"Local people can contribute by following the government guidance to reduce the rate of infection in our communities, and ensuring they continue to wash their hands, keep at least two metres from others and wear face masks where they need to.”

This week’s data shows: • There were 999 new cases in Cumbria (+39 increase, +4 per cent, from 960 cases in previous week); • For the 3rd week in a row Carlisle had the highest number of new cases (+293 new cases); • Carlisle also had the highest rate of new cases (270 new cases per 100k population) and was well above the England average (245 new cases per 100k population) • Numbers of new cases increased steeply in Allerdale and Copeland, with smaller increases in Eden and Carlisle; • Numbers of new cases in Barrow and South Lakeland decreased from the previous week (by -42 per cent and -8 per cent respectively); • For the 4th week in a row, the 45-59 age group accounted for the greatest number of new cases in Cumbria.

• Local Registrars data shows 24 deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the last seven days.