Agenda and minutes
Venue: Virtual meeting
Contact: James Townsend
Apologies were received from Councillor Graham Bridgman and Matt Pearce.
The minutes of the previous meeting dated 01 February 2021 were approved as a true and correct record.
Declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest received.
Community testing update
Melanie Best provided an update on the rollout of community testing in West Berkshire. She noted that:
· Highwood Copse School and Thatcham Rugby Club sites were now up and running
· 257 tests were conducted at Highwood Copse in the first week, all were negative
· Newbury Weekly News had covered the opening of the sites
· Two more sites were opening at Burghfield Community Sports Centre and Hungerford Rugby Club, with booking slots being released later in the week
· Early years providers were a key cohort being targeted for testing, with many already using the sites
· The opening hours, especially early starts and late closures were being monitored to increase capacity
· The sites were continuing to be promoted on social media
· Surge testing- if there was a case of the South African variant, there was now a plan in place as to how this would be dealt with
Councillor Masters asked what the efficacy was of the lateral flow tests.
Melanie Best noted that efficacy had improved as they were done at the sites and supervised.
Councillor Vickers asked if shop workers were being invited for testing.
Melanie Best noted that currently the community testing was aimed at businesses with less than 50 employers, so large supermarkets were picked up through the Government programme. However, she noted that small retail shops within the cohort were being invited for testing.
Andy Sharp asked if residents were located to sites closer to Reading or Wokingham if they could utilise those.
Melanie Best noted that residents could use the sites in neighbouring authorities.
Covid-19 compliance and the role of marshals
Sean Murphy provided an update on business compliance through the Public Protection service and the role of Covid-19 marshals. He noted that:
· The service had been responsible for business and events provision since March 2020
· The service had approached the situation by proactively communicating with businesses and the public through the website/ social media and webinars
· Service requests and business advice for those in West Berkshire had been available online throughout the pandemic
· He also stated that there had been compliance visits to businesses at every legislative change point during Covid-19
· Enforcement action when required- although this had been a very small number
· Horizon scanning- looking as to what may come up in terms of legislation. He noted that this had been a key part of the Public Protection service and that it was awaiting further announcements for the roadmap ahead on February 22
· 6 marshals would cover the district (both urban and rural)- this was part of the Public Protection Service
· There would be a further two marshals at community testing centres
· The marshals would cover the district seven days per week
· The role of marshals would last initially for 3 months
· They would operate primarily on high streets, public spaces, markets and out of town shopping areas
· The role of marshals was to support the community- promoting safe Covid measures
· They do not have enforcement powers
· They would provide advice and assistance at a local level
· They would work closely with those responsible for enforcement
· Assist with lockdown restriction easing
Councillor Woollaston asked where the marshals were recruited from.
Sean Murphy noted that they were sourced from an agency.
Councillor Doherty thanked Sean Murphy and the Public Protection Service for its continued work. She also noted that it was important to note, as Sean Murphy mentioned, that the marshals did not have enforcement powers, but they were there to assist the community and businesses. She also asked for further detail on why the role of marshals was now being used.
Sean Murphy noted that the company used to hire marshals were providing marshals services all over the country and they had worked with neighbouring authorities so they knew the area well. He noted that they were very experienced and had a depth of local knowledge. In relation to why they were being deployed now, he stated that it was all about timing and utilising the marshals in accordance with restrictions hopefully starting to ease in the coming months and adapting once again.
Covid-19 situational report
April Peberdy provided an update on the Covid-19 situation in West Berkshire. She stated that all data presented was correct as of the 15 February 2021. She also noted that the slides being presented were now in line with the rest of Berkshire and would be published on the Berkshire Public Health website.
· The whole of Berkshire remained in a national lockdown
· Further information could be found via:
Situational awareness (data correct for the week 15th February 2021):
· So far there had been 5,834 cases of Covid-19 in West Berkshire since the start of the pandemic and 213 of these had been in the last week.
· The rate per 100,000 has decreased and now stands at 134.4. The positivity rate had dropped to 5.9%.
Epidemiology of cases:
· In West Berkshire there had been 209 COVID-19 related deaths during the whole pandemic. 111 of these were
· In hospital and 83 were in a care home. In the last week reported (23rd -29th Jan), there were 14 COVID-19 related deaths recorded.
· Since March 2020, West Berkshire’s all-cause mortality rate has been 20% higher than the previous 5 year average, which equates to 216 additional deaths.
· The number of admissions for Covid-19 patients is starting to slowly decrease in Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust hospitals. There were 11 admissions on 31st January.
· On 2nd February, 201 patients were in RBFT hospitals for COVID-19 and 28 (14%) of these were on mechanical ventilation.
· She noted that an outbreak is defined by PHE as two or more cases with highly probable or confirmed epidemiological links. For care home settings one case counts as an outbreak.
· Over the last 14 days (25th January to 7th February 2021), PHE has informed us of 29 non-residential COVID-19 outbreaks in Berkshire. 5 occurred in West Berkshire.
The following table provides additional information on the location of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Berkshire. These are broken down to show the last 14 days (25th January to 7th February 2021) and all cases prior to this date (up to 24th January 2021).
· The confirmed Covid-19 case rates decreased in all Berkshire local authorities over the last week. In West Berkshire there have been 5,834 cases of Covid-19 in West Berkshire since the start ... view the full minutes text for item 93.
Mandip Bilkhu provided an update on the work of the Communications team in relation to Covid-19:
· She noted that they were continuing with national lockdown messages through social media and various other channels
· A webpage for lateral flow testing had been set up for residents and businesses
· On vaccinations, they were supporting the messaging from NHS colleagues and were continuing to provide updates as and when they were released
· She had spoken to Berkshire West CCG about the messaging on vaccination and ensuring those updates were in-line with the national picture
· They were preparing for the roadmap announcement on 22 February and would be explaining the route ahead to residents when it was announced
Future agenda items
Councillor Doherty asked if a local primary school teacher would be able to provide an update on 1st March in anticipation of the schools returning.