No let down in guard.

Although currently, the number of new cases of COVID 19 are dropping in this area the Council is drawing up new plans to tackle any second surge in the infection that may have to be faced.

B&NES has been allocated £850k from a £300million government fund to work with the NHS, partners and stakeholders to establish a coordinated local approach.

Each local authority is being given funding to develop tailored outbreak management plans that build on seven key themes expected by Government. The plans will focus on having systems in place to identify and suppress possible outbreaks before they gain momentum, and reducing the risk of outbreaks occurring in the first place.

As part of this work, councils will also be expected to ensure testing capacity is deployed effectively to high-risk locations. Local authorities will work with the NHS Test and Trace Service, local NHS and other partners to achieve this.

A report giving an overview of the Outbreak Management Plan for Bath and North East Somerset will go before the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Tuesday 23 June.

The report by the council’s Director of Public Health, Dr Bruce Laurence, highlights the challenge in preventing local outbreaks as restrictions on movement are lifted and society slowly reopens. In a webinar earlier this month Dr Laurence said: “We are treading a fairly fine line between controlling the outbreak and letting it rip.”

The aim of the council’s Outbreak Control Management Plan is to support national and regional efforts to keep the virus under control by improving the speed of response while maintaining the support and engagement of the local community.

The plan will:

  • build on the council’s existing health protection processes
  • ensure testing, tracing and self-isolation occurs as thoroughly and rapidly as possible
  • ensure overall increases in cases and new outbreaks, particularly amongst vulnerable groups, are quickly identified
  • ensure a consistent approach to decision making and public messaging
  • ensure that vulnerable people are support to self-isolate if needed

A COVID-19 Health Protection Board will have core membership from public health, environmental health, adult social care, the emergency team (EPRR), communications, informatics and the NHS. Links will be made to the Compassionate Communities Hub and other stakeholders as well. This board will oversee delivery of the plan which has clear priorities:

Care homes and schools: a coordinated approach will be taken to

planning and managing outbreaks in care homes and schools.  Care homes will also continue to be supported through training in infection prevention and control and where necessary supported to access PPE.

 Identification of high-risk settings, communities and places: this will include care homes and schools, homeless shelters and high-risk workplaces. Guidance will be provided on preventative measures and outbreak management strategies.

Provision of local testing capacity: to ensure access to testing and a range of provision, such as mobile facilities, is provided quickly. Clear processes will also be established to ensure prioritisation.

Contact tracing: building on existing close working arrangements with Public Health England to provide contact tracing capability to respond to outbreaks and complex community issues.  This will include the development of an additional capacity to support the national system should there be a surge in cases.

Data integration: to enable the assessment of local, regional and national data.

Vulnerable people: ensuring any decisions taken prioritise support for vulnerable local people, including those shielding and enabling access to the NHS and local community support to those who are required to self-isolate.

In addition to the COVID-19 Health Protection Board, a B&NES Outbreak Engagement Board, chaired by the Council Leader, Councillor Dine Romero, will play a critical role in engaging with local residents and other stakeholders in the public, private and third sectors to help increase understanding of the need to follow the rules and principles designed to prevent transmission of the virus.

Councillor Rob Appleyard, cabinet member for Adult Services, said: “Although, thankfully, the number of cases of COVID-19 is dropping, coronavirus is still very much with us. If we drop our guard, we could see more outbreaks. We must manage this ever-present risk and our plan will help us do that.  However, I must stress it is critical that people continue to adhere to government restrictions, maintain social distancing and good hygiene.”