South Tyneside schools, care homes and businesses could face shut downs under plans to stamp out local outbreaks

Town hall chiefs have not ruled out shutting down schools, businesses or care homes to stamp out a fresh round of COVID-19 infections.
File picture from PAFile picture from PA
File picture from PA

Health bosses in the borough are working on plans for so-called ‘local lockdowns’, which could be implemented if there is a rise in cases.

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Just two positive tests for coronavirus connected to a particular location could be enough for officials from South Tyneside Council to step in.

“Our plan will help support us to trace the virus, isolate new infections and give us early warning signs if the virus is starting to increase again, locally regionally or nationally,” said Tom Hall, the council’s director of public health.

“If any of those scenarios involves a level of complexity, such as the individual is a healthcare worker or they are a teacher or may have attended a school, for example, then they may be handled by more specialist staff at Public Health England, who will then work in conjunction with the local authority to understand any additional risks that might be involved.

“If we do start to see two or more confirmed cases within particular settings, like a school or care home, then we will have to work on a local outbreak response in those situations and additional public health measures may be brought in, which could even involve the closure of a particular setting.”

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Hall was speaking at yesterday’s (Wednesday, June 18) meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet, which was held by video conference and broadcast via YouTube.

Despite government plans for councils to take charge of ‘local lockdowns’, local authorities have not been handed any new powers to enforce these, meaning bosses must rely on existing rules.

But health chiefs in the borough are also confident public compliance with social distancing and other restrictions up to this point may mean they do not have to resort to shut downs.

Hall added: “In each situation we will have to make a more nuanced risk assessment because each setting is very different.

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“If we see good mitigation measures have been in place, such as good use of social distancing, use of PPE where necessary, good cleaning and infection control, then a full closure might not be necessary.”

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