Jo Broadbent provided Members with an update on the latest ThurrockCOVID Data and Intelligence:
· Current Picture, Rate per 100K Population and Positivity – Thurrock’s rate had been hovering just below 250 per 100K residents – which was fairly level. In comparison to January 2021 there were 1500 per 100K residents, May 2021 there were about 10 per 100K residents. With neighbouring boroughs all mostly at a similar level to Thurrock. The overall positive levels and positivity rates illustrated had been fairly flat over the past few weeks when compared to the big spike of December 2020. The level of test rates had gone up over the last couple of months but had now levelled off.
· Current Picture: Positive Tests by Age Band – Those known to be positive with COVID in Thurrock for the past few months. Pattern of highest care rates had been in the 10 to 19 and 20 to 29 age groups and there had been a spike in the 40 to 49 this week. The 10 to 29 age groups was where the highest cases were being identified and that teenagers would be going back to school next week. There were some cases in the over 60s which had risen slightly but was lower than it had been.
· BTUH bed occupancy by type – Thurrock and Non Thurrock residents – The number of COVID patients had gone up over the past couple of months with most patients on oxygen therapy rather than invasive ventilation.
· Total COVID Deaths (to 20 August 2021) and Care Home Residents Deaths (to 31 March 2021) – Sadly there had been 489 COVID deaths in Thurrock with around 17%, 86 residents, of those deaths in care homes who had sadly died during the pandemic. Those figures were comparable with neighbouring boroughs.
· PCR testing - Local Test Sites (LTS) were open 8am – 8pm, 7 days a week and located at Grays Beach and Orsett Heath. LTS site at Canterbury Parade South Ockendon closed on 21 August, freeing up car parking spaces for parents at local primary school and for nearby shops. Residents of South Ockendon can access testing sites at Grays or Upminster. Mobile Testing Units (MTU) are open 9am – 3pm, 7 days a week and are at Grover Walk, Corringham and Crown Road, Grays. The Crown Road site would close soon. Lateral Flow testing (LFD) - 31 pharmacies had signed up to the Pharmacy Collect scheme. Residents can also order boxes of test kits for home delivery from gov.uk. The Targeted Community Testing Programme was operating until the end of September and in Thurrock the following groups were able to obtain test kits from their key workers if they could not pick up kits from pharmacies or order for home delivery: Carers, Young people known to the Drug and Alcohol service and Adults known to the Drug and Alcohol service. Additional groups were being explored: travellers, asylum seekers, adults attending contact sessions.
· Vaccinations (as of 1 September 2021) – Priority Groups – that over 90% of over 65s had now had two doses. Rates had increased in the 30 to 39 age group but had a slight concern of the vaccination take up in the 18 to 29 year old age group. The Comms Team were doing a lot of social media messaging aimed at young people. Doing research amongst residents to identify what the concerns were.
Jo Broadbent concluded that:
• Thurrock’s overall rate of positive tests had plateaued over recent weeks following a steady increase in the weeks prior. Thurrock’s rate remained towards the lower end of those seen nationally.
• Test positivity had decreased to levels similar to those last seen in late early July 2021.
• The number of PCR tests taken by Thurrock residents had increased slightly in recent weeks.
• LFD tests comprised a slight majority of testing, with over 9,000 tests recorded in the last week.
• Geographic distribution of cases showed all LSOAs had seen at least one positive test result in the last 14 days.
• Hospital bed use had increased steadily over the last fortnight. The majority of occupied beds were at the lowest end of acuity, however a small number of critical care beds continued to be occupied. There were five COVID positive admissions for Thurrock residents to BTUH in the most recent week of data.
• Vaccines continued to be administered in line with the COVID Vaccination Priority Groups, now including the 16 to 17 year old group.
• The Key Priorities were to maximise vaccine uptake amongst all priority groups.
Councillor Ralph referred to the fact that Thurrock was slightly behind when compared to neighbouring boroughs with the take up of double vaccines and questioned where Thurrock were facing unique difficulties that was preventing this second dose. Jo Broadbent stated she was not entirely clear as to why but some extensive research had been carried out to understand the reasons why people in Thurrock were concerned about having the vaccine. There had been concerns with safety about the rapidity in which the vaccines were developed. There had been some very unhelpful posts on social media around the impacts on fertility and pregnancy.
At 9.28pm, Standing Orders were extended for 10 minutes to enable the remainder of the agenda to be finished.
Councillor Fish questioned with the schools returning next week what mitigations were in place in Thurrock schools. Jo Broadbent stated herself and Sheila Murphy, Corporate Director of Children's Service, had written to all schools advising them of the current COVID guidance. The secondary school children would be undertaking two lateral flow tests on site in school at the start of the school term. School children, young people and staff are being asked for the rest of the term to do a lateral flow test twice a week. That guidance for schools would remain the same. It was not mandatory to wear masks in classrooms or communal areas but this would be an action taken by schools and to try and maximize ventilation in classrooms. The Public Health team would support the school as much as possible but Thurrock schools had been fantastic throughout the pandemic and praised heads of schools. In Thurrock the schools had a grip on this and was confident they would do the best they possibly could in meeting any challenges ahead.