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Telford & Wrekin's Public health Director wanrns there's "no room for complacency" with coronavirus

Telford and Wrekin’s coronavirus rate is below the English average, but there is “no room for complacency” and people still need to wash their hands regularly and get tested if they have symptoms, a council health committee has heard.

Public Health Director Liz Noakes said the borough had seen 594 positive Covid-19 diagnoses, and 100 residents had died with the virus.

While presenting the borough’s Local Outbreak Prevention and Control Plan to the Health and Wellbeing Board, she added that 21 outbreaks had taken place, mainly in care homes.

Councillor Andy Burford, the cabinet member for Health and Social Care, congratulated her and her team on the document and said Telford and Wrekin had “reason to be satisfied” with the proactive approach it had taken to keep care homes, schools and factories safe.

Between June 29 and July 5, there were six diagnosed coronavirus cases in the borough, giving a rate of 3.4 per 100,000 of population, Ms Noakes said.

“That is slightly lower than the national average,” she said.

“Twenty-one outbreaks have been notified to us since the start. We’ve had about 15 in care homes but, more recently, we’re picking up outbreaks in other settings.”

Office for National Statistics data – which records where virus victims lived, rather than where they died – said 100 Telford and Wrekin residents had died with coronavirus. Numbers peaked in April, but are now down to “one or two a week”, Ms Noakes said.

Cllr Burford said: “Throughout this pandemic we’ve been striving to be ahead of the curve.

“Right from the early stages we’ve recognised where our potential for outbreaks was. We have been proactive in making sure those premises – whether they be schools, care homes or factories – were advised and encourage to do whatever was required.

“We’re also very much to the fore on the issue in care homes, in terms of resisting the discharge from hospital, because we knew what a perilous thing that was at the height of the pandemic.

“We’ve got reason to be satisfied with the approach we’ve taken so far. I would just add – and I know Liz would echo this – that there is absolutely no room for complacency.

“Our low rate isn’t set in stone. It can easily change and we’ve got to keep a very careful eye on that.”

Responding to a question from board member Councillor Karen Tomlinson, Ms Noakes said she only received partial information about people who were diagnosed with Covid-19 and processed through the government’s “contract tracing” system.

“I have their postcodes, ages, and what kind of testing was done, so I can track them from a geographical point of view,” Ms Noakes said.

“What I don’t have is their contact details to be able to do the contract tracing myself. That is done at a national level in simple cases, or at a regional tier if they’re slightly more complex.”

Cllr Burford said he thought this was “not the efficient way of doing it”.

He said: “The efficient way of doing it is with our own resources at local level.

“In the past 10 years we have to recognise that across the country, public health has been cut back drastically. It means that, on the ground, we don’t have the staff available to do the expert work.

“When it comes to something like this, we’re exposed, everywhere is exposed, in terms of our capacity.”

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