PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTORS UNVEIL PLANS TO MANAGE & PREVENT FUTURE COVID-19 OUTBREAKS IN NOTTINGHAMSHIRE
 

On Wednesday 1 July 2020, Matt Jarram, Senior Digital reporter & Crime correspondent of the Nottingham Post wrote:

Public health directors reveal plan to avoid a local lockdown in Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire's 'R rate' has also been revealed

A major plan has been devised to manage and prevent future coronavirus outbreaks across Nottinghamshire.

Directors of Public Health at local councils across England have been asked by the Government to devise a plan.

This includes a particular focus on reducing outbreaks in places such as schools, care homes, prisons and factories.

Creating an 'R' value for Nottinghamshire has already been established - which currently only applies to the East Midlands and tracks how the virus spreads.

If the reproduction number is higher than one, then the number of cases increases exponentially.

But if the number is lower, the disease will eventually peter out, as not enough new people are being infected to sustain the outbreak.

Public Health directors said at the moment locally, it sits at 0.8 to 1.1.

They are also looking at postcode data for the first time to determine where local hot spots are and what measures can be taken to contain the virus.

But in the same way as Leicester, if there is a rise in the number of coronavirus cases, schools and non-essential businesses can expect to close. 

Alison Challenger, director of Public Health Nottingham and Jonathan Gribbin, director of Public Health Nottinghamshire, have joined forces to create the plan with key partners.

The Local Outbreak Control Plan also includes representatives from Nottingham City Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, the NHS, Public Health England and other relevant bodies.

It sets out the framework for how the county will "contain the virus" "safeguard critical services" and ensure school and work places can "flourish again."

Speaking to Nottinghamshire Live, Mr Gribbin said: "We will be meeting on a daily basis to check to see what information might indicate that we have got an emerging hot spot or outbreak - and where we see that happen we will be taking action.

"The data we get plays an important part in shaping our actions such as number of new cases for example. 

"The R is one of the bits of hard intel and tells us about what is happening locally.

"We have been doing a lot of work in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire to calculate and model an R number specifically for Nottinghamshire.

"Partners have been coming together to look at all the information available nationally, regionally and from various different research centres and we have been plotting and modelling that R number for Nottinghamshire.

"It was saying the R number locally was sitting at somewhere between 0.8 and 1.1.

"We are at a critical point at the moment - we are in a position where we can do a certain amount to relax some of the measures that have been in place over the last couple of months but the coronavirus is still in general circulation in the community."

Mrs Challenger told Nottinghamshire Live: "We have one plan for city and one for county but they are essentially the same because we have been working together. 

"You can never tell what an outbreak is going to look like so we are trying to set out what the key principles are.

"It is trying to understand what is happening in our communities and how to respond and react really quickly. We need as much data as possible to try and give us that full picture.

"It is like piecing a jigsaw together. The R rate is important. I think as numbers become smaller the R rate becomes less useful.

"When the local rate is 1.1 that could be because we had an outbreak in a care home. Because the numbers are so small it becomes much more sensitive.

"It is not going to be everything that drives our actions. We will bring together all data that we can. 

"If something comes along like Leicester - a community outbreak - we need to be on top of that."

Both directors are concerned we could end up like Leicester if measures such as social distancing, washing hands, and engaging in the test and trace scheme are not adhered to.

Mrs Challenger added: "We are very concerned we could end up with an outbreak and that is the reason there is a plan. 

"Nottingham has been fortunate in a way; we have not seen the same levels that other areas have seen. We want to say thank you to the public.

"We have to be mindful Covid is still around, and these outbreaks are still possible.

"We could have situations that could start anywhere such as a hotel, a school, in a hospital, if we don't find that out and apply social distancing that could extend and it could spread.

"We can't say it is not going to happen here. We have to remain vigilant and cautious and keep on doing that because it could be a risk here if we don't.

"What would it look like here (local lockdown)? I think you could look at Leicester and say Leicester could come here. 

"Now they have got an extended period where schools have closed and businesses are closed and that's what it could look like anywhere in the country.

"That's what we are trying to prevent."

They are encouraging people to carry on using the Test and Trace scheme so 'individual' postcode data can determine hot spot areas.

This could mean the lockdown is contained in one particular area of the county rather than a large area which covers most of the city.

Mr Gribbin said: "A lot of this relies on people disclosing and reporting they have symptoms in the first place. We really want to acknowledge and thank people for doing that.

"It is something we want people to engage with in Nottinghamshire.

"What local directors of Public Health from across the country have been asking for over recent weeks is access to individual level, postcoded information about who has tested positive.

"And I am really pleased to say that over the last few days that has started to be made available to local authorities. We are starting to look at that now.

"It will strengthen what we are doing to identify hot spots around Nottinghamshire.

"It won't have your name, but it will look at that individual or several individuals at a particular postcode so we can build up a picture on how these cases are related to one another.

"That will strengthen and enrich our understanding of where new cases are arising across Nottinghamshire."

Mrs Challenger said: "You really don't want to get to a position where you have got a local lockdown of a big area. We would want to make sure we find it as soon as possible to contain it."

Nottingham and Nottinghamshire received a share of the Government’s £300m fund to implement the plans.

Nottingham City have been allocated £3.1m and Nottinghamshire County have been allocated £3.8m

What are some of the measures being taken in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire?

  • Targeted information campaigns to help prevent future outbreaks are planned, with a focus on complex and high-risk groups such as black, Asian and ethnic minority groups, men, older groups and vulnerable people who live alone.
  • Planning for local outbreaks in care homes and schools by monitoring and identifying potential scenarios.
  • Identifying and planning how to manage other high-risk places including sheltered housing, dormitories for migrant workers, transport access points and rough sleepers
  • Identifying methods for local testing to ensure a swift response that is accessible to the entire population. This could include delivering tests to isolated individuals, establishing local pop-up sites or hosting mobile testing units at high-risk locations
  • Supporting vulnerable people to get help to self-isolate such as encouraging neighbours to offer support and identifying relevant community groups
  • A regular Outbreak Cell, bringing together Public Health England, local authorities and others will monitor and review the available data and local intelligence to determine whether there are any emerging issues requiring a response.
  • Contact tracing may identify outbreaks where additional support to control the spread of Covid-19 at a local level is needed.