New testing has shown that a Covid outbreak at a Newcastle hotel is “satisfactorily reducing”.

It emerged on Wednesday that a cluster of cases at the Novotel Newcastle Airport was the reason that the city had recorded England’s second highest week-on-week rise in infection rates in the seven days to April 2.

Public health officials confirmed that 36 positive tests had been recorded among employees, security staff, and residents at the Ponteland Road hotel, which is currently being used to provide accommodation for asylum seekers.

Prof Eugene Milne, Newcastle’s public health director, has now revealed that a further round of testing took place at the Kingston Park site on Wednesday and its results have confirmed that the outbreak appears to be under control.

Airport Novotel at Kingston Park, Newcastle

Asked about the outbreak at a meeting of the city council’s health scrutiny committee on Thursday afternoon, Prof Milne said: “The hotel in question is one that is being used by Mears as part of support for asylum seekers. I don’t want to get into the details of that.

“We have had two outbreak control team meetings, there has been significant work on the site and we are cooperating with Mears, the Home Office, the police, and with Public Health England. It looks controlled to me at the moment, the numbers I’m seeing.

“We have had a mobile testing unit on site again yesterday and the results have come through today. It looks as if that is satisfactorily reducing now.”

In response to a question from Blakelaw councillor Oskar Avery, the public health chief added that the outbreak was unlikely to raise issues for other hotels as they reopen post-lockdown – but “does have implications for shared residential accommodation that we will need to think about in terms of outbreak control as we progress”.

In the week to April 2, Newcastle’s Covid infection rate jumped from 41.6 to 58.8 new weekly cases per 100,000 people compared to the previous seven days.

But that rise has been solely attributed to the hotel outbreak, which saw the Woolsington and Airport area record the highest infection rate of any part of the North East, as opposed to a more widespread increase in cases across the city.

According to council data released on Thursday afternoon, the city’s infection rate is now back down to 42 per 100,000.

That figure is slightly above the average of 31 per 100,00 across Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham – as well as the wider North East’s 35 and England’s 30.

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