Alison Challenger, Director of Public Health, gave a presentation updating on the Outbreak Control Plan. She highlighted the following information:
a) There has been an increase in positive cases of Covid-19 across the country, particularly in the 15-44 age group.
b) There has been an increase in the number of positive tests for Covid-19 across the country, which to some extent reflects the increase in testing.
c) The Government watchlist is changing on a weekly basis. Newark and Sherwood has now been removed from the watchlist.
d) Rates of Covid-19 in the City are largely following the national picture but there are variations. There was a small decrease in cases in the most recent weekly report but a more consistent increase is now being seen.
e) Testing capacity continues to be an issue. There has been an increase in demand for testing and some people have found it hard to book a test. In such cases, people should keep trying to book a test. There is national recognition of a shortage of testing and issues are not specific to Nottingham. Once an individual has booked a test it is important that they only leave home to have that test and then return straight home to isolate until they have the results. Postal tests are available but the challenge is the ability of laboratories to keep up with demand.
f) There has been a reduction in people maintaining social distancing especially when multiple households meet. A significant amount of the spread of cases has been within and between households.
g) It is important that people wear face coverings when required to do so, especially on public transport, and that these face coverings cover both nose and mouth. Handwashing remains one the best protections against the spread of Covid-19.
During the subsequent discussion the following points were raised:
h) Messages about the importance of social distancing, wearing face coverings and handwashing etc are difficult because people want to get back to normal. However it is really important that clear, consistent and accurate messages reach as many people as possible to reduce outbreaks. The more Covid-19 there is circulating in local communities, the more likely it is to spread to the clinically vulnerable.
i) There is scope for councillors and local community leaders to support with communication.
j) The City has a good range of testing facilities. Infection, Protection and Control Teams are very responsive and can mobilise to take an active approach where needed. The City also has an effective testing co-ordination centre. However, the system is reliant on national arrangements for testing provided at local level. Nationally and locally there has been an increase in demand for testing and laboratory capacity has not been able to keep up but there is little influence over this locally.
k) The rules can be complicated for people to understand and follow, especially when advice and guidance appears to be inconsistent.
l) It is important that particular sections of the population aren’t scapegoated for an increase in cases. For example, there has been an increase in positive cases amongst younger people but this may be because younger people tend to display fewer symptoms and therefore earlier in the outbreak may not have been tested, meaning it is difficult to know what the rate of Covid-19 was amongst this age group at the outset.