How South Tyneside will prevent and deal with any local outbreaks

Council chiefs have set out how they will aim to prevent local outbreaks of coronavirus in South Tyneside – and deal with any that occur.

By Ross Robertson
Monday, 13th July 2020, 11:14 am
Updated Monday, 13th July 2020, 11:17 am

South Tyneside Council has published its Local Outbreak Control Plan, which also sets out how it will respond with its partners in the event of a local outbreak.

The plan outlines the measures needed to get any localised outbreak under control such as testing, contact tracing, support for schools and care homes as well as ongoing advice on how residents can keep themselves safe.

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A laboratory technician wearing full PPE (personal protective equipment) cleans a test tube containing a live sample taken from people tested for the novel coronavirus. Photo by Andrew Milligan / POOL / AFP

Council chiefs say a full local lockdown of the borough is unlikely, and any outbreak is most likely to be centred around an individual setting such as a school or care home.

But they have warned this depends on people adhering strictly to the existing public health guidance.

Council leader Iain Malcolm, said: “Whilst we are not currently at risk of going into a full lockdown situation like we’ve seen in Leicester there is now more than ever a need for us all to hold firm.

“We can and must continue to follow the public health guidance to help keep South Tyneside safe. Failure to do so could see us lose all the gains made under lockdown and at such great personal sacrifice of so many.”

He said although social distancing has been amended to 1m+ when staying 2m apart is not possible, it is important to remember that this 1m+ guidance only applies when other mitigating factors, such as a face coverings or regular hand sanitising, are used as well.

Coun Malcolm also stressed residents should continue to social distance as much as possible and wash their hands more often and for longer.

Anyone displaying symptoms of the virus - a new continuous cough, high temperature or the loss or change to your sense of smell or taste - should book a test immediately and follow any advice given by the tracing service. Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions.

People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has a positive test must stay at home for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms.

Councillor Malcolm added: “We have all been and continue to be affected by COVID-19 – tragically some more than others.

“The sacrifices of so many means that we have contained the spread of the virus but we cannot afford to be complacent. It is up to each and every one of us to continue to follow the guidance and act responsibly to keep our communities safe.

“This will help save lives, protect our health and social care system and allow our local economy to recover.”

South Tyneside Council’s FAQs on the Local Outbreak Control Plan

What is the Outbreak Control Plan and what is it for?

The purpose of the South Tyneside Outbreak Management Plan is to clearly outline how we intend to prevent and control outbreaks of COVID-19 in South Tyneside to support local recovery. It will cover the guiding principles of how we will operate and highlight the key activities we will undertake to prevent outbreaks.

It will then outline how we intend to address national themes identified for outbreak planning, including managing outbreaks in high-risk settings (e.g. care homes and schools); ensuring we have sufficient local testing capacity, high-quality integrated data to support decision making and strong local governance to oversee plans.

Who is responsible for the Outbreak Control Plan?

A COVID-19 Leadership Board will be established to provide strategic oversight and assurance on the delivery of the Outbreak plan, chaired by Cllr Iain Malcolm (Vice Chair Dr Mathew Walmsley).

A COVID-19 Health Protection Board will be established to provide oversight to the delivery of the Outbreak Control Plan. This group will bring together expertise from public health, environmental health, communications, clinical commissioning group and PHE.

Setting-based Outbreak Control Management Teams (OCTs) will be mobilised as appropriate to provide an operational response to individual outbreaks

What is the NHS Test and Trace Service?

NHS Test and Trace service forms a central part of the government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery strategy. Specifically, the NHS test and trace service:

ensures that anyone who develops COVID-19 can quickly be tested to find out if they have the virus, and also includes targeted asymptomatic testing of NHS and social care staff and care home residents

helps trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and, if necessary, notifies them that they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus

The service aims to help return life more to normal, in a way that is safe and protects the NHS and social care. It will allow us to trace the spread of the virus, isolate new infections and give us early warning if the virus is increasing again, locally or nationally.

What would trigger a local lockdown in South Tyneside?

We will need to work with the leadership of businesses, schools, care homes etc. to make joint decisions on public health measures, such as temporary closures. Each situation will need a nuanced risk assessment, which will be undertaken in conjunction with experts in Public Health issues. If good mitigation measures have been in place, then full closure may not be necessary.

We are likely to focus on settings where reducing transmission risk is more difficult, such as schools and care homes. We’re used to working with Public Health England and those settings when we’ve had cases and outbreaks of infectious diseases in the past.

We have developed a local outbreak control plan that supports the implementation of the NHS Test and Trace approach, using the existing strong partnership arrangements we have in place with the NHS, Public Health England, Environmental Health and so forth.

What can we do to avoid an outbreak or local lockdown?

The public, businesses and other settings have been extremely responsible so far in following advice on public health measures. We’ll very much be looking to that level of responsibility continuing.

The less people socialise, the less the virus will spread. So everyone should stay at as much distance as possible and limit contact with people that they don’t live with.

When out and about, everyone should observe the 2m social distancing advice. If this is not possible 1m+ should be used. This means staying 1m away from others and using other measures such as wearing a face covering and washing your hands regularly. Where possible crowds should be avoided, clothes should be washed more regularly and if you’re in more confined spaces, use face-coverings. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example in some shops. It is now mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport.

Please use the beach, foreshore and parks safely, by maintaining social distancing, using the bins provided and taking your rubbish home.

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