Covid in High Peak – one year on from the first case in Buxton

It is now exactly a year since High Peak recorded its first ever Coronavirus case - a breakout at Burbage Primary School in Buxton on February 27.

Saturday, 27th February 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Saturday, 27th February 2021, 9:49 am

As the school announced the grim news to parents last February, there were only 15 confirmed cases of the disease in the UK.

In a message to parents at the time - announcing its closure for “a deep clean” - the school confirmed the case was among its “parent population”.

Public Health England East Midlands said the person involved had caught the virus while in Tenerife.

Burbage Primary School, where a parent was confirmed to have Buxton's first Covid case

On February 26 - the evening before the announcement - several ambulances were seen speeding to a property in the town.

Ambulances then left the scene with blue lights flashing after paramedics in biohazard suits helped a person into one of them.

And on the same day a case was confirmed at Buxton Medical Practice - less than a mile from the school.

As news of the cases emerged schools and places of work still remained open across the UK and it was more than a fortnight before the scale of the looming crisis became apparent.

Anthony Fitzgerald, of Fitzgerald Craft Bakery, began selling yeast and powdered milk to his customers in anticipation of the supermarket supply crisis just before lockdown last March

By March 17, Buxton was deserted as town residents stayed home in preparation for the national lockdown imposed less than a week later.

Locals described “mad” cases of stockpiling - with shelves of milk and toilet roll “disappearing” as fear gripped the community.

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Fitzgerald Craft Bakery on Spring Gardens began selling yeast and powdered milk to its customers in anticipation of the supermarket supply crisis which developed in the weeks that followed.

Buxton town centre on March 17 last year

Owner Anthony Fitzgerald, told Buxton Advertiser at the time the bakery could survive for “six months with no trade” however he added that he “feared for many others in the town”.

Thankfully, the bakery, along with many other town businesses has survived the worst of the pandemic.

Although some such as Burbage pub The Duke - have been forced to call it a day.

Many adapted by providing takeaways to supportive customers but theatres such as Buxton’s Opera House have remained closed since March.

Chris Harvey, GP partner and clinical director for High Peak care network, during the vaccination rollout at Buxton Medical Practice

And Buxton International Festival announced the cancellation of its July event on March 19.

Since the start of the pandemic there have been 4,659 Covid cases and 242 deaths in High Peak.

During the first month of national lockdown cases of the disease in High Peak reached their highest point towards the end of April - with an average of eight cases a week.

And deaths were peaking at an average of two a week by the middle of April.

However in the autumn - following the easing of many restrictions nationwide - High Peak cases rocketed to a high of 45 cases a week - almost six times higher than the April peak.

Jose Cusco after the vaccine jab at Buxton Medical Practice hub

By the beginning of January 2021, High Peak was averaging 50 Covid cases a week - however this has steadily fallen with figures up to February 18 showing 16 cases a week.

In December nursing homes residents, staff and other frontline health workers began receiving the vaccine.

High Peak’s first community vaccine hub - Chapel-en-le-Frith’s Thornbrook Surgery - began rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech jab on January 11 - immunising over 1, 100 patients.

Days later Buxton Medical Practice began its own vaccination programme - aiming to immunise ‘in the region of 1,500 people made up primarily of frontline workers and higher-risk patients’ during one weekend.

Dr Chris Harvey, clinical care director of the primary care network in the High Peak, spoke to Buxton Advertiser at the medical centre.

He described the launch as “a really positive act to be a springboard for something better”.

Speaking about the future of vaccination in the coming months and years he said: “It seems increasingly likely that this is the first wave of multiple waves and who knows whether this will be necessary to repeat year-on-year.

“The science would suggest that’s probably where we’re heading with it but we’re just setting out our stall to iron out any wrinkles with it right now.”

Figures released by the Department of Health show 31,332 people in the High Peak have now received at least one dose of Covid vaccine.

A breakdown of the data shows that 4,659 people over the age of 80, 3,919 between the ages of 75-79, 5,370 in the 70-74 age bracket and 17,384 under-70s have had the jab.

While UK figures show over 18 million have had the first jab and over 700,000, the second.

Speaking about the vaccine High Peak MP Robert Largan said: “It’s fantastic news that 31,332 people have had their first vaccine dose.

“This is an amazing achievement and I want to thank everyone who has been working so hard to deliver the vaccine programme locally - from the doctors and nurses to the GP practice managers and volunteers.

“Everyone is playing a vital role and helping to save lives.

“The Government has set an ambitious target to offer a vaccine to every adult by the end of July.

“I’ll be working with our local NHS to do everything possible to make certain we hit that target - we will get through this.”

Looking back over the last year Robert said: “It’s been a very difficult twelve months - we all mourn those who have died and everyone has been affected by this awful virus.

“The people of High Peak have pulled together in so many different ways.

“I’m proud of how local people have supported each other – and now with the vaccine programme picking up pace there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

A community coronavirus test centre for asymptomatic people (without any symptoms) has now opened in Buxton at the Pavilion Gardens.

With one in three people who have coronavirus not having any symptoms, the testing is aimed at those who are continuing to go to work and mixing with the public.

It is open seven days a week with no need to book.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.