BRADFORD is bracing itself for an expected spike in Covid-19 infections in January after the easing of restrictions over Christmas.

Councillors were given an update on the ongoing work to tackle the virus in the district at a meeting of the Bradford West Area Committee.

Aneela Ahmed, who works as 999 call handler with Yorkshire Ambulance Service and is a Labour councillor for City ward, predicted "hell" after the festive period.

She said: "We know after Christmas in January, it’s going to be hell, it’s going to be madness.

"How are we going to manage January, that is my biggest concern. Because in January, we are going to see an absolute increase in cases because of the five-day break that we’re going to get - that’s going to bring thousands and thousands of cases forward."

Cllr Nussrat Mohammed (Lab, Heaton) raised similar concerns.

Sarah Muckle, Director of Public Health for Bradford Council, and Ian Day, who has been overseeing the Council's response, said they would be able to meet any spike in demand after the Christmas period.

Mrs Muckle said: "We are expecting a rise after Christmas and every area I expect will see a rise after Christmas."

While numbers of infections are coming down, along with the positivity rate, Mrs Muckle warned the district is not out of the woods.

She said: "One of the things that’s worrying us at the minute and one of the reasons why we are going into Tier 3 is when we see increases in cases in the community, there’s a two to three week time lag before we start to see the impact on our hospitals, because it can take two to three weeks for people who are going to become ill because of Covid, to get seriously ill enough to need hospital care.

"Even though we’re seeing in our communities those numbers are going down and we’re coming down that side of the peak, our hospitals are at the point where they’re really under pressure and they're struggling."

Between November 8 and November 24, Bradford's hospitals had 103 new admissions just for Covid.

Mrs Muckle said: "That’s causing them some real problems, so that’s the one of the things they take into account when they look at the restrictions and obviously we also know some people unfortunately lose their life to Covid and between November 10 and 16, we’ve had 28 deaths as a result of Covid-19 in our district.

"Now this is getting better because the week before it was 36, but obviously we want to get that down a lot further and we want a lot less admissions in our hospitals.

"So really good news from a point of view of the virus is reducing and it's looking much better in terms of seeing those cases come down, but we’re not out of the woods yet and our hospitals would still tell you that they’re having difficulties coping with the demand, so we still need to keep up our efforts to keep that under control."

She said there is a "good chance" of coming out of Tier 3 if things stay as they are, but the unknown is hospital admissions. Demand on NHS services is a key factor in determining which tier an area is placed in.

Mrs Muckle said: "That’s the thing we need to be keeping an eye on over the next two weeks.

"I think the rate will continue to go down, especially while we’re in Tier 3, and I think we’re on track for those numbers to go down, but in terms of the NHS, the number of people still being admitted to our hospitals is still too high."

She said the Council was open to any option that gives large-scale testing in Bradford, and that is what is being planned for, but it might not follow the Liverpool model.

An initial strategy with a targeted approach is looking at testing for care home visitors, all high school and college staff, businesses which have occupational health support, plus frontline staff and emergency services like police and fire.