To consider the Borough’s Covid-19 Outbreak Management Plan (Plan Summary attached).
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 19 to 34 and the supplementary Agenda, which gave details of the Borough’s Covid-19 Outbreak Management Plan.
Susan Parsonage (Chief Executive) and Meradin Peachey (Public Health Consultant) attended the meeting to present the plan and to answer Member questions.
The Plan aimed to establish a clear process for controlling any further Covid-19 outbreaks and to minimise any impacts on the Borough’s residents. Achieving this aim would require a whole system approach across local and national government, the NHS, businesses, the voluntary sector, community partners and residents.
The Outbreak Management Plan focussed on settings and population groups where there were particular risks relating to Covid-19. The plan focussed on a number of key themes, viz:
· Care settings and schools;
· High risk workplaces, communities and locations;
· Mobile testing units and local testing approaches;
· Contact tracing in complex settings – led by Public Health England;
· Data integration – used to identify hotspots and target responses;
· Vulnerable people – support for diverse communities;
· Local Boards – managing outbreaks through Incident Control teams.
In the event of a Covid-19 outbreak, a range of measures could be implemented, including:
· Specific advice on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), infection prevention, control measures and contact tracing;
· Testing of people with and without symptoms;
· Restricting attendance at an outbreak site;
· Cancelling events;
· Closing community facilities and other premises, if required;
· Alert messaging.
The Outbreak Management Plan confirmed that the Director of Public Health retained primary responsibility for the health of the local community, working closely with other professional and organisations such as WBC. The Plan would be triggered when there were suspected or confirmed Covid-19 outbreaks in any setting type, or significant community spread. Public Health England would work with partners, including the Council, to gather intelligence via the national Test and Trace service, laboratory results and local partner feedback. Public Health England would conduct a risk assessment with the setting, provide infection control and advice on testing as appropriate. The Council would provide support to the outbreak setting and additional capacity for contact tracing, as necessary.
The Plan stated that strong engagement and communication with the local community was essential. A Local Outbreak Communication Plan would focus on two key areas:
· Preventative measures – building confidence in the NHS Test and Trace service, observing social distancing measures, maintaining good hand hygiene, wearing face coverings in specific locations and supporting people who are medically vulnerable, self-isolating or shielding.
· Targeted messages in response to local outbreaks – supporting high risk settings, responding to public enquiries, explaining any restrictions in place and keeping residents up-to-date as restrictions change or lift.
Given the likelihood that Covid-19 outbreaks would spread beyond local authority boundaries, it would be important to develop good communication links with neighbouring councils. It was confirmed that key contacts had already been established with the Council’s neighbours.
It was confirmed that the Plan would be updated on a monthly basis following Government policy changes and the outcome of scenario testing. Some elements of the Plan already required updating following recent Government announcements.
In the ensuing discussion, Members raised the following issues:
A resident had complained about a hairdressing outlet in Wokingham which appeared not to be complying with social distancing requirements. Should this be reported? It was confirmed that a key element of local intelligence was feedback from residents about issues such as this. If reported, this issue would be followed up with a discussion with the business causing concern.
What was the PHE/Council involvement in the recent Tesco cases of Covid-19? It was confirmed that the Plan and supporting systems had been in a developmental phase which meant that all new cases were not reported. Going forwards, the aim was to ensure that as many new cases as possible were reported through the contact tracing system set out in the plan. (Note: it was subsequently confirmed that Public Health England were not initially made aware of the local Tesco cases).
Following the national reporting on the increased risk from Covid-19 to vulnerable communities, such as BAME and the elderly, how were the Council’s communications tailored to educate and support these groups? It was confirmed that communications were targeted at specific groups and this would be maintained, as described in the Plan. Discussions were being held with the Borough’s BME Forum to explore the issues set out earlier in the response to Councillor Smith’s Member question.
Was the Community Hub still operating and, if so, how had it changed since the height of the pandemic? It was confirmed that the Community Hub was still open for business but had been scaled back in recent weeks. It was noted that the voluntary sector had provided enormous support to the community response to the pandemic.
The Plan referred to the creation of class “bubbles” in schools, made up of no more than 15 children and up to two adults. It was understood that whole class bubbles were now in place. It was confirmed that the statement in the Plan had been superseded by Government advice. This was an example of the changing environment and the reason why the plan would be update each month.
Feedback following the recent lockdown in Leicester indicated that Leicester City Council had received key information from the local newspaper. Has the quality and quantity of data improved? It was confirmed that data was much improved and would facilitate early decisions. More specific data was now available on the exact location of cases and the breakdown of cases by age group.
The wearing of face coverings was now mandatory in shops. What enforcement took place if members of the public did not comply? It was confirmed that discussions were ongoing with shops and businesses about social distancing requirements. Essentially, enforcement was a police matter, but Council staff were providing advice and support.
In relation to communication with the public, was there a risk of information fatigue resulting in key messages not being absorbed? It was confirmed that there was no local evidence of information fatigue. The Local Outbreak Communication Plan aimed to build on existing activity and deliver effective messaging on prevention and targeted messaging in the event of local outbreaks.
There were concerns about social distancing at Dinton Pastures and the availability of hand sanitising facilities when the café was closed. It was confirmed that, following investigation, a written response would be provided on these issues.
What lessons had been learned from the Leicester lockdown in relation to the BAME community, for example in relation to gatherings and risk assessments for local mosques? It was confirmed that further consideration would be given to these points.
In relation to the role of Members in supporting local residents and reporting on local intelligence, could more guidance be provided? It was confirmed that consideration would be given to the development of specific guidance for Members to support them in their work in the local community.
1) Susan Parsonage and Meradin Peachey be thanked for attending the meeting to present the Outbreak Management Plan and answer Member questions;
2) Susan Parsonage be asked to thank Officers from WBC and the relevant partner agencies for the significant amount of work carried out in developing the Plan;
3) responses be provided to the specific issues raised by members of the Committee;
4) Officers consider the production of specific guidance for Members to inform their work in supporting local communities.