HEALTH bosses in Barnsley have revealed they do not expect to see a sudden spike in coronavirus cases but urged residents to continue to follow ‘vital’ social distancing guidelines until told otherwise.

More than 370 people have been struck by the disease in the town - including 41 deaths - but medics said this week that there were growing signs for optimism locally and praised residents’ responses during the ongoing lockdown phase.

Julia Burrows, director of Public Health, said: “The pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another.

“It has already caused a great deal of suffering, including in Barnsley many of us know people directly affected by the disease and some have people close who have died.

“Although we are still in the midst of the outbreak, there is a reason for hope and optimism.

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“It continues to be a fast-moving and quite unpredictable situation. In early March, predictions were that there would be huge scale of demand on our health and social care system, with the potential for hundreds of hospitalisations and possibly more than ten deaths every day in Barnsley alone.

“However, we are now seeing the beneficial effects of strict social distancing measures. The latest monitoring and short-term predictions suggest we are now at the top of a much lower peak in illness and death from COVID-19.

“We now expect to see the number of cases not climbing any higher, but we will likely remain at the current level for between one and four weeks. This would turn out to be a lower and slower peak than we had initially predicted.”

While leaders in the town admitted the outlook remains uncertain, they stressed the importance of continuing to adhere to government-advised guidelines, including a two-metre social distancing rule, and that Barnsley Hospital is coping with its patient numbers.

”We must say that while there is reason for hope and optimism, the future remains uncertain,” Ms Burrows added. “We must stay safe and well as individuals, families and communities by adhering to the guidelines and supporting each other through these difficult times.

“Although there is ongoing suffering, this does mean that the demand for our health and social care system is within its capacity to care for all those affected.”

* If anyone is concerned about symptoms, they should use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111, rather than contacting or visiting a GP or hospital.