Jo Broadbent provided Members with an update on the latest Thurrock COVID Data and Intelligence:
· Current Picture, Rate per 100K Population and Positivity - Thurrock compared to some of our near neighbours, Thurrock’s current positive rate was 277 per 100K with intermediate levels at this time. The positivity rate was 13% which was down from 40% at the start of January 2022.
· Current Picture, Positive Tests, Testing and Positivity – Covid rates had dropped dramatically since January 2022 but still had intermediate levels of Covid. The rate of Covid had gone down there was still some Covid transmission within the community with a positivity rate of 13%.
· Current Picture, Positive Tests by Age Band – Highest rates in working aged adults (30 to 39). The rate had fallen in the age bands 0 to 9 and 10 to 19 - this was due to increase of vaccinations in those age groups and that many young people had Covid over the last few months. Rates had fallen in all age bands.
· BTUH Bed Occupancy by Type – Beds still being occupied but mainly Covid-Oxygen beds and not ventilation beds which was good news. There was still a residual number of people who were being hospitalised with Covid.
· Highlights – Vaccinations, First and Second Dose in Thurrock – Rates of fully vaccinated individuals had fallen from highest in the aged 80s, 95%, down the list to the aged 12 to 15 with 21%. These rates had not increased appreciably over the last couple of months.
· Highlights – Vaccinations, Boosters – Similar pattern, high uptakes in the over 60s and then falls gradually down the listed ages.
· Highlights – confirmed cases – Distribution of Covid – Every unique postcode in Thurrock had at least one case in the past 14 days. Three school/college in a live outbreak and three care homes with a live outbreak. These numbers were much lower than previously seen over the majority of the pandemic.
· Living with Covid – Government issued guidance on stepping down remaining restrictions on the 21 February 2022. The Living with Covid plan was structured around four principles – Living with Covid-19, Protecting People most vulnerable to Covid-19, Maintaining resilience and Securing innovations and opportunities. This required action by the council and wider system in three areas – Covid -19 Public Health Management Response, Thurrock Council Operations and Wider Health and Care System.
Jo Broadbent concluded:
· Thurrock’s overall rate of positive tests had continued to decrease since mid-January 2022 after seeing the highest rates over December 2021. Nationally, Thurrock sat towards the lower end of the UTLA rankings (89th out of 149).
· Test positivity had increased over the last seven days to 13% but was considerably down on levels seen from December 2021 to January 2022.
· The number of PCR tests taken by Thurrock residents had continued to decrease over the last week. Over 300 tests per day had been undertaken over the last seven days, which compared to a figure close to 2000 seen during December 2021. Over 7,300 LFD tests recorded in the last week.
· Geographic distribution of cases showed all LSOAs had seen a positive test result in the most recent 14 days.
· Hospital bed use had increased over the past four weeks but was well below numbers seen in early January 2022. A small number of critical care beds continued to be occupied and there were four Covid positive admissions for a Thurrock resident to BTUH in the most recent week of data.
· Key Priorities were to maximise vaccine update through community vaccine champions, focusing on lower uptake communities and pregnant women and to promote EPUTs vaccination bus in the borough during a new eight-week programme.
Councillor Ralph thanked Jo Broadbent for the update and referred to the drop-in testing that were being undertaken nationally, he questioned whether random testing would still be undertaken for different variants in each community. Jo Broadbent stated she was not aware of a plan to do random testing but with symptomatic testing being undertaken where required for health care purposes and ongoing testing in care homes, there would still be PCR tests going through the system just not so many of them.
Councillor Ralph questioned why residents could not or they still needed a timetable slot to visit loved ones in hospital when there were no longer any national restrictions. Hannah Coffey stated there were still national restrictions in health care environments around visiting, the “no visitor” policy had been reduced and residents were now able to book, discretion was also used in exceptional circumstances and referred Members to the new well received initiative, this was being offered by the hospital communications team where notes or letters could be delivered to patients through them.
Councillor Ralph also questioned whether this was still the case for Accident and Emergency attendance to which Hannah Coffey stated generally yes but this was also dependent on circumstances. The restrictions were still pretty strict but recognised this was not ideal for patients, visitors and also staff. Councillor Ralph gave thanks to the security team at Basildon Hospital who had been very helpful.
Councillor Fish referred to the COVID-19 Public Health Management Response of scaling down the response, but with an ability to scale back up if required and questioned how quickly the Key Performance Indicators could be re-introduced in an event of another variant which was highly transmissible or a more severe variant. Jo Broadbent stated the Department of Health and UK Health Security Agency were dismantling a lot of the national infrastructure such as data reporting systems but Directors of Public Health would still need to get the reassurance this data reporting system could be picked up again should the need arise. In regard to local response, the council had learnt a lot over the last two years and therefore had more expertise in outbreak management in the local authority public health team. The team had been restructured and had created a new permanent Health Protection Lead Role, the appointment had been given to someone who had been working for the team for the past two years on Covid. Plans were in place to step up the response very quickly if required as senior contact tracers were council staff. Other staff were agency staff who could be called back if required.
Councillor Polley referred to long Covid, sickness and absenteeism within the workplace and questioned how confident were they there would be sufficient staff to react to another outbreak or another variant. Jo Broadbent stated that part of the Living with Covid guidance was for the council to have staffing contingency plans in place for social care and this would need to be looked into. The council had low levels of sickness absences due to Covid and this had fallen in line with infection rates.
Neil Woodbridge referred to working in the community and it was clear that people working in care homes were having tests daily and questioned whether home care staff were being tested daily as well. Jo Broadbent stated all frontline social care staff would be subject to the same guidance. Although there were some contradictions in the guidance to which some of this needed to be pinned down and then this guidance would be sent out to care homes and others who needed it. Neil Woodbridge stated it would be really good to have some guidance in place as there was currently some anxiety around whether people would have to pay for tests to which Jo Broadbent stated her understanding was tests would be provided to social care staff but was unsure how this was going to work.
Jo Broadbent left the meeting at 8.25pm.