This will be a presentation and verbal update on the latest available data.
Jo Broadbent provided Members with an update on the latest Thurrock COVID-19 Data and Intelligence:
· Current Picture, Rate per 100K Population and Positivity – Thurrock Overall rate was 98.1 cases per 100K population which had been a substantial reduction based on figures provided at the January HOSC. Thurrock were still at a higher case rate than neighbouring authorities. Something that will be worked on. The epidemic curve had shown sharp increases over Christmas and New Year and then a substantial decline since then. A small increase in cases last week but seemed to be going down again with the downward trend continuing.
· Current Picture, Positive Tests by Age Band – Still seeing high number of cases in adults aged 22 to 59 and also seeing high numbers of cases within the working age adult population. That low case numbers were being shown in the over 70s. A report published by Public Health England had looked at the effectiveness of the vaccine programme which had shown that the vaccine had been 80% effective in reducing hospitalisation of older residents and between 57% and 73% effective in reducing symptoms of COVID. So although not 100% effective it was having an impact and were seeing some low case numbers in older age groups.
· Current Picture, Asymptomatic Testing, All Ages – There was evidence that there had been a higher take up among women than men.
· Current Picture, Testing Positivity – That between 24 January and 2 March, there was evidence that those aged 10 to 19, secondary school age who had been offered asymptomatic COVID test before returning to school had taken up that test which was very positive. A very small proportion of all asymptomatic tests, 1%, had come back positive which equated to 455 cases that would not have been identified and showed the importance of continuing with this policy.
· BTUH Bed Occupancy – That since early January the numbers had fallen although fallen more gently than and not as sharply as case numbers had. The graph showed that fewer people were being hospitalised with COVID it still indicated that the NHS system was still under pressure.
· Confirmed Cases – One school currently in a recovery outbreak and three care homes with a live outbreak and work would continue to support those care homes. In Thurrock there was 11 local areas where there were no localised infections and when compared to previous data the geographical spread had got such better.
· Members were shown the data that was being published nationally on the uptake of vaccinations under 65s and over 65s first and second doses. In Thurrock over 90% of over 70s had been given their first dose and about 85% of 65 to 69 year olds. Which compared well with rates across the country.
· Members were shown the locations of testing sites within Thurrock and that three new sites would be opening in South Ockendon, Corringham and Tilbury and displayed that better coverage had started to take place across the borough and work would continue on that.
Jo Broadbent concluded that:
· Thurrock’s overall rate of positive tests continued to decrease.
· The number of PCR tests taken by Thurrock residents had begun to increase over the recent days.
· The geographical distribution of cases had reduced greatly.
· Hospital beds used due to COVID had continued to decrease.
· Vaccines continued to be administered in line with COVID vaccination priority groups.
· The Key Priority was to update testing strategy including schools, families/childcare bubbles and workers outside the home, especially targeting younger working age males.
Councillor Ralph thanked Jo Broadbent for the report and was encouraged to see the numbers in Thurrock coming down and in regard to the amount of testing being undertaken and to remember that a new spike in data may represent the mass testing covering all the bases in Thurrock.
Councillor Holloway questioned why the vaccine data had not been shared sooner and made a comparison to Thurrock’s data of 35K to Cambridge and Peterborough’s 235K. Jo Broadbent stated that Cambridge and Peterborough’s CCG data covered the entirety of Cambridge and Peterborough who had a much bigger population when compared to Thurrock’s population. That the most effective way to compare was to look at percentages and Thurrock was doing well in terms of percentage of the first four cohorts.
Councillor Muldowney referred to the schools being opened from next week and questioned could Thurrock end up going into a third wave before we had recovered from the second wave properly. Jo Broadbent stated the roadmap that had come out of the lockdown had set out the dates and confirmed that checks would be carried out between those dates and would continue to work as we currently were in the Council and stressing to the community on the importance of social distancing, to keep up with infection prevention and control measures. If not, there would be a risk that numbers could go up again. That the R rate had continued to drop even when schools had been open for key workers and for vulnerable children and that testing programs for both secondary children and their family bubbles would need to be promoted and monitored.
Councillor Muldowney referred to the delay in school’s closing and questioned whether there were better channels now that we could use to feedback on what was happening in schools into the data that was being analysed centrally so that maybe quicker decisions could be made on whether schools should be closed. Councillor Muldowney also asked whether there was anything else that could be done locally. Jo Broadbent stated that Thurrock was going over and above the national position, all schools and all parents had been written to offering a PCR test to all children the week before they were due to return and those testing positive would not return to school to prevent the spread into their school bubble. Jo Broadbent referred to the good communication that Thurrock education colleagues had with schools, regularly attending to speak with school heads to get the story from the ground. There were a number of communication routes that could be used one of which would be to feed up through Public Health England.
Councillor Muldowney questioned whether any extra measures, such as safety, would put in place in schools. Jo Broadbent stated again that schools and parents had been written to reminding them of the guidance on creating a COVID safe environment which had been the same as before. The change was the regular testing in schools which would continue to be monitored.
Councillor Ralph stated that concerns had been raised by HealthWatch in regards to transport difficulties for residents to the some of the vaccination centres.
Nigel Leonard provided Members with an update on the vaccination programme in Thurrock:
· Introduced himself as the SRO from EPUT for vaccinations centres with the vaccination centre in Thurrock being particularly busy.
· Acute Trusts / MSE Group had also been administrating vaccines not only from Basildon but from Orsett.
· PCNs delivering the vaccines and shortly there will also be pharmacists which are currently going through approval process with NHS England.
· Hope that pharmacists would pick up some of the localities within Thurrock.
· There will be a significant increase of vaccines that will be available. Thurrock had received more than its share and worked out on population basis and had therefore been receiving slightly more vaccines.
· Look at the through put at existing sites but working with Council and CCG colleagues to look at pop-up clinics in those harder to reach areas.
· Waiting for national approval for a potential drive through model which may be ideal for some localities in Thurrock.
· Over coming weeks, changes may be seen on the way on how the vaccination service will be delivered with more opportunities on how these are delivered.
· Those hard to reach groups and those on low income to be targeted.
· Rapidly moving through the cohorts and currently on cohort 7 which was 60 years and over.
At 9.27pm, Councillor Ralph suspended standing orders.
· Over the next couple of weeks with CCG, PCN colleagues and the Council to give and maximise the opportunity for those in cohorts 1 to 4 to ensure that the vaccine had been offered to as many people as possible.
· Need to target those harder to reach groups.
· Put on specific events to reach those communities which may have to be flexible in the approach because of the way some communities operate. For example Muslim community may be easier to target the complete family group rather than just offering by age.
Councillor Ralph thanked everyone that had been involved in the vaccination roll out who were doing an extremely good job.
Kim James questioned what the process would be for those residents who were housebound and for informal carers. Roger Harris stated that informal carers would be part of cohort 6 that were being worked on currently and that guidance was due out shortly for those carers who wished to contact the local authority to receive a carer’s assessment and a guidance on the definition of who would be eligible. Nigel Leonard stated in regards to housebound residents over 87% had been vaccinated but agreed that had to be 100% or as close to 100% as possible. That a plan was in place to target over the next few weeks to ensure that everybody received their first dose and housebound and care homes would still be top priority.
Mark Tebbs reiterated that the focus was now to make sure that everybody in those initial cohorts had actually been vaccinated and confirmed that the 24 remaining housebound patients had been booked in for their vaccines.
Jo Broadbent reassured the committee that public health were linking in with NHS colleagues and HealthWatch on the inequalities and the targeting of vulnerable groups and that a piece of research had been commissioned on the engagement research with local BAME community to understand issues around vaccines.
Councillor Muldowney commented how good it was to see the vaccination rollout was happening so well and so rapidly and asked for clarification on the process for residents to receive their second dose. Nigel Leonard stated that acute trusts had their own booking system which had been similar to the PCNs that had been tied into the national booking system and those who booked their first vaccination through this could also book their second vaccination. That a number of processes were being put in place alongside PCN and acute colleagues to ensure that everybody got the opportunity to book their second vaccine. Members were informed that when a supply of vaccines were received, 50% were held back so that everyone who had their first dose would be guaranteed a second dose. That a significant uplift in the supply of the vaccines would start to be seen across the UK and these significant numbers would start to hit Thurrock from the 15 March.
Councillor Ralph stated the vaccine rollout had been a good news story for Thurrock and again thanked everyone that was working on this to ensure that everything was being done to keep our population safe.
Councillor Rigby questioned whether there were any figures on the number of residents with long COVID and figures had shown 30 to 39 year olds getting infected and how many were suffering from long COVID symptoms. Ian Wake stated that no accurate data was available and was a difficult syndrome to diagnose and something that was being learnt about at this time. Councillor Rigby questioned whether the data would be available in due course to which Ian Wake stated he suspected it would be under diagnosed so the data received may not be the true picture.
Councillor Ralph questioned whether any new variants had been identified in Thurrock to which Jo Broadbent stated that she was not aware that there was of any of the South African or the Brazilian variants within Thurrock.