Agenda and minutes
Election of Chairman
To elect the Chairman of the Local Outbreak Engagement Board.
RESOLVED that Councillor Graham Bridgman be elected Chairman of the Local Outbreak Engagement Board.
To receive apologies for inability to attend the meeting.
There were apologies received from Nick Carter.
Election of Vice-Chairman
RESOLVED that Councillor Jo Stewart be elected Vice-Chairman of the Local Outbreak Engagement Board.
The minutes of the meeting held on 15 March 2021 were approved as a true and correct record.
Declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest.
Covid-19 situational report
Matt Pearce provided an update on the Covid-19 situation in West Berkshire, as follows:
· There had been a slight increase in cases in the last fortnight, but numbers were low, so any outbreaks caused significant fluctuations, and there was no cause for alarm.
· 6,725 cases had been confirmed since the start of the pandemic, with 50 new cases in the last week.
· There was an ongoing need to maintain social distancing and other preventative measures.
· Lateral Flow (LF) kits were being distributed widely and would increase the numbers of people tested and asymptomatic cases detected.
· Positive test results had dropped from 3.7% to 1.3% in the latest period.
· There were 31.6 cases per 100,000 population in the population as a whole and just 2.5 cases per 100,000 amongst those aged 60+.
· Most West Berkshire wards had not experienced any cases in the last week.
· The most recent data showed 3 new admissions to Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust (RBFT) hospitals.
· There were 35 patients currently in RBFT hospitals with Covid-19, of which 6 were on ventilators.
· There had been 2 Covid-19 related deaths in the week to 12 March.
· All-cause mortality was 18% higher than the previous 5 year average since the start of the pandemic – equating to 230 additional deaths.
· Approximately 70,000 people had received their first dose of the vaccine.
· In all wards, at least 93% of people aged 65+ had received their first dose.
· There was still no clinical definition or treatment pathway for long-Covid.
· The definition was where Covid-related symptoms persisted for more than 12 weeks and were not explained by an alternative diagnosis.
· 10% of Covid patients will suffer from long Covid (estimated at 670 people in West Berkshire).
· 60 long-Covid clinics had been set up across the country, including one within the pain management department of the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
· Patients were referred to the clinics by their GPs.
· Since November 2020, 263 referrals had been made to RBFT.
· Asthma was the most common comorbidity.
· The most common symptoms were fatigue, shortness of breath, concentration problems, pain, depression and anxiety.
· Some patients’ employment status had changed due to long-Covid.
Eligibility and Access to Asymptomatic Testing:
· LF testing was available to households of nursery and school children, members of support bubbles and childcare bubbles, as well as critical key workers unable to work from home.
· Some workplaces had set up assisted testing sites for their staff.
· The recommendation was to be tested twice weekly.
· It was important for people to be tested to pick up asymptomatic cases.
· Community testing sites were available at four locations across the district.
· Community collection of home-test kits would operate from these four sites from 30 March.
· Home-test kits were also available through the regional centre at Newbury Showground.
· Pharmacy collection points would become available in the coming weeks.
· Workplaces would also be able to provide home-test kits to their staff.
· Online ordering was available ... view the full minutes text for item 115.
Local Outbreak Control Plan
Matt Pearce provided a verbal report.
He indicated that the draft plan was with Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care.
He stated that the first Plan was prepared in June 2020. It identified how outbreaks would be identified and managed and the restrictive measures to be put in place in response to outbreaks.
He stated that the plan had been updated in March 2021.
He noted that surge testing would be used to detect variants of concern in the district and isolate those cases as quickly as possible. He explained that 75% of cases in West Berkshire were the Kent variant, but vaccinations may not protect people from other variants as effectively.
He indicated that the Plan considered the transition to a ‘new normal’, i.e. keeping on top of local outbreaks, while allowing people more freedoms.
He also noted that the Plan included ‘enhanced contact tracing’, where the Council would use surveillance and data on individual cases. People with positive tests would be contacted by ‘test and trace’ and asked about where they had been in the previous 2-7 days to identify settings where Environmental Health visits may be required.
He stated that the vaccination programme was another key element and that it was likely that booster vaccinations would be required in future. He stressed the need for the public to recognise the importance of vaccinations, and to address the anticipated lower uptake of vaccinations amongst the younger age groups.
The Plan also covered testing, with particular support for vulnerable people and those who needed to self-isolate.
Finally, he noted that the Plan addressed issues of governance to ensure that all partners knew how to respond to outbreaks and were aware of the escalation process regionally and with neighbouring authorities.
The Chairman asked if this was the first update. Matt Pearce indicated that the Plan had been reviewed every couple of months, but this was the first time they had been formally asked to review it.
Meradin Peachey highlighted that the main difference between the first plan and the latest version was the recognition of local leadership. She noted that local partners had much better data on local cases, which brought additional responsibilities. She explained that a system had been set up to monitor quality. She stressed the importance of the plans and indicated that there may be an ongoing need for them in future.
Martin Dunscombe provided a verbal update.
He reported that the recovery roadmap was a key focus, promoting what was / was not possible with the move to Step 1b and subsequent steps. He stated that the Comms Team attended weekly Government briefings so they could plan work around what was coming up. He noted that ‘stay at home’ had been replaced with ‘stay local’ and the strap line for the next phase of the campaign was ‘hands, face, space, fresh air’, reinforcing the message that two households / bubbles of up to six people could meet outdoors only.
He confirmed that communications had also been produced to explain the local Covid testing offer. He noted that this would continue to evolve.
He explained that the website had been updated and the Comms Team was working with local businesses to encourage their employees to get LF tests. They had worked with the Local Enterprise Partnership to get messaging out. Similarly, residents who were out and about for legitimate reasons had been encouraged to get tested.
He highlighted work undertaken with schools, responding to feedback that parents were unclear about how to access LF test kits. The Team had also developed messaging to stress the need for pupils to follow usual social distancing rules outside school.
He also stated that the Covid bulletin was still being sent out and was being opened 40,000 times each week. He confirmed that this would continue throughout the roadmap period (www.westberks.gov.uk/signup).
He noted that future campaigns would focus on transition to Step 2 on 12 April, which involved the opening up of hospitality and further relaxation of restrictions. He indicated that they would be working with local businesses to promote the work they had been doing to reopen safely and to promote the local retail offer. He also suggested that there would be campaigns around safe use of parks and open spaces, which would become busier as restrictions relaxed and warmer weather arrived.
He indicated that communications would continue to promote community testing and the new community collect service, with an infographic developed to help explain the options.
Also, as part of the update of the Local Outbreak Control Plan, they were reviewing comms around surge testing and responding to outbreaks.
He indicated that there would be specific work around Ramadan, particularly in relation to vaccination and safe celebrations.
Finally, he highlighted an e-booklet that was being produced to look back at how the local communities had been through the pandemic.
Future agenda items
The Chairman noted that due to the Easter bank holidays, the agenda for the meeting on 12 April would need to be published on 31 March. He suggested that a standard agenda would be published initially and final version published nearer the time.
Councillor Lynne Doherty suggested that 12 April was a key milestone and suggested that a local business could be invited to talk about the steps they had taken to make their businesses safe. She suggested that this might reassure residents and help them to visualise what it might look and feel like when businesses reopen.
He stated that LOEB meetings had been confirmed to the end of April. He suggested that meetings be confirmed on a rolling basis for six weeks ahead.
Councillor Dominic Boeck agreed, noting that the final relaxation of restrictions should be in a couple of months and so fortnightly meetings should be continued for the time-being.
Any other business
No other business was raised.