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Action plan debated for how parts of Nottinghamshire may have to deal with local lockdown if outbreaks arise

An action plan for how parts of Nottinghamshire may have to deal with regional lockdowns should local outbreaks be identified has been debated, writes local democracy reporter.

The power to handle smaller lockdowns has been given to councils like the city and county councils, should they be necessary.

County Hall, home of Nottinghamshire County Council. (39304965)
County Hall, home of Nottinghamshire County Council. (39304965)

Several scientists, and the Prime Minister, have warned of the possibility of a second wave materialising this winter.

Councillors and health experts were briefed on the plans at a meeting of Nottinghamshire County Council.

It was the first meeting of the council’s health and wellbeing board since former chairman Steve Vickers resigned after making Islamophobic comments.

Despite the pandemic, the group had not met in person or virtually since March.

Jonathan Gribbin, public health director for Nottinghamshire, said a designated ‘outbreak cell’ of experts was monitoring local disease intelligence daily to understand what targeted interventions may be necessary.

He said: “I think we are all aware that for most people coronavirus is a relatively mild disease but that for some people it has had a severe and tragic consequence.

“There are about 650 people in Nottinghamshire county who have died as a direct result of the virus, and we are all aware that behind those statistics lie human stories and burdens of grief for individuals and loved one who’ve lost family members and friends.

“Nationally, we are at alert level three, so covid-19 is in general circulation but we are in a situation at the moment where there’s no overall increase in circulation if we look across the whole country.

“But we do need to note that the alert level tells us that significant local outbreaks continue.

“The daily incidence for England as a whole is about one per 100,000. In Nottinghamshire, our incidence rate is currently just below 0.6 per hundred thousand.

“So if we compare ourselves to the national average we are currently lower than the national average.

“The overall situation in Nottinghamshire remains more favourable than many other parts of the country, but that’s not to say we can sit back or ease off, it’s still absolutely critical that each individual, household and organisation plays its role in stopping the spread. Nevertheless we are in a relatively favourable position.

“On a daily basis, we have mobilised an outbreak cell within the overall response structure of the Local Resilience Forum.

“That outbreak structure brings together colleagues from public health, environmental health and infection prevention control colleagues from the local NHS.

“On a daily basis it’s reviewing all the surveillance information about what’s happening in Nottinghamshire at the moment.

“Looking at that it identifies whether there is anything to indicate further investigation is needed, or in some cases whether action needs to be taken, for example where there may be an indication of what may turn out to be an outbreak in a particular setting, it will be that daily outbreak cell that would mobilise the team that would need to be brought together from across different organisations to do that.”

Mr Gribbin was also asked about the effectiveness of the test and trace system.

He said: “It’s fairly well publicised that the effectiveness of this ­— in terms of being able to make contact with people so you’re able to give advice ­— there remain some limitations around that, and I think there are limitations of what someone on a telephone can actually achieve, particularly when that might be undertaken in business hours.

“There is some work underway nationally to explore whether — where test and trace has failed to make contact with someone — whether those individuals can be passed to a local area — that would be my team for example, for us to follow up locally.

“That’s been undertaken recently in Leicester City, on some scale, and I think we may well see in the coming weeks that turning into something that happens across the country.

“That will I think increase the effectiveness of test and trace in one degree, it will also of course mean we need to resource-up locally to be able to undertake that ourselves.

“I’m not in a position to tell you we can do that today, but that said, I think it’s the direction of travel for us.

“It’s really important that although Nottinghamshire county enjoys rates of new cases which are lower than in many parts of the country, that we’re all continuing to exercise discipline around social distancing, self-isolation, the handwashing, the respiratory hygiene and so on.

“We don’t currently have a substitute for that, or anything else we could put in its place that would deliver the same kind of protection that we need.”

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