Agenda item

Living with Covid

The Board will receive an update on the above.

Minutes:

The Director of Public Health updated the Board on living with Covid and in particular the continuing response to Covid in the light of the changes to the national strategy which were announced on the 21 February 2022 and implemented the Living with Covid Plan.

 

The Director of Public Health referred to the peak of Omicron in January followed be a reduction in rates throughout late January and early February with an increase partly driven by the return of schools.  The Board was informed that infection rates in the BCP Council area appeared to be falling similar to other Councils in the Southwest. He explained that there was a change in the way that testing services were being used with free testing ceasing on 1 April 2022 and therefore this was no longer an effective way of local surveillance for Covid. The Board was advised that in its place was a national prevalence survey which was run by the Office of National Statistics and carried out every couple of weeks which provided reasonable estimates of the proportion of the population who had Covid. The Director of Public Health reported that there had been a 40% fall off rate in testing due to a change in behaviour.

 

The Director of Public Health reported on the role of the Health and Wellbeing Board.  He explained that in light of the national strategy it was proposed to pause the Local Outbreak Engagement Board for now as the national plan indicated a return to straight forward public health measures.  The Board was reminded that the strategy announced by the Prime Minister had triggered a number of changes with the lifting of all legal restrictions and regulations. There was a move towards a focus on the highest risk settings and the most vulnerable moving away from a public health approach of testing and breaking chains of transmission. 

 

The Board was advised that the Health Protection Board would be maintained which was a multi-agency body operational since the start of the pandemic.  That Board’s remit and focus would shift slightly and would also look at other infections.  The Director of Public Health explained that the Board would need to ensure that there was an effective, efficient and robust health protection function in the integrated care system.

 

He reminded the Board of the changes in regulations relating to Covid including stopping the national test and trace scheme and outlined the implications for the two teams that were operating under both Councils.  The Board was informed that there were ongoing discussions with the teams and the Director of Public Health thanked them for the work that they had undertaken.  He explained that some staff may be joining the day response team and others were discussing redeployment opportunities with both Councils.

 

The Director of Public Health reported that there was no evidence currently of new variants in the Country.  He explained that if the situation changed there would be a need to stand up resources. Public Health were in close contact with Regional Partnership teams who were thinking about how to access testing resources and outbreak support if there was a different pattern of the disease. The Board was advised that in the interim day responses were being offered to high-risk settings, the national guidance would be reviewed, and appropriate information published. The Director of Public Health reported that the decision had been taken to wind up the targeted community testing programme which would end on 31 March 2022 which was on the basis of strong advice from the Government as it was no longer funded.  He reported that a limited supply of lateral flow tests would be kept for use in investigation clusters and in certain instances where there may be people in frontline roles who wanted to continue to test because of the settings that they visited.

 

The Director of Public Health commented on the vaccination programme and in particular the successful booster programme with 83% eligible having had a booster.  He explained that there were significant pockets of the population that did not receive either dose 1 or 2 and therefore would not be included in the above percentage. The Board was advised that the Public Health team would continue to work with the vaccination programme locally with work ongoing on how to design a resilient and sustainable service rather than an emergency service and continuing work with trusted voices and vaccine ambassadors which was one of the most effective ways of working with communities to understand concerns about the vaccination and in many cases overcoming and addressing those concerns. The Director of Public Health reported that further news on the vaccine programme was expected in the autumn which could be further boosters or new vaccines including how we move from the summer into winter. The Chair sought clarification on whether there was a covid helpline number and if so, was it still available. The Director of Public Health indicated that he would check on the availability of any contact numbers and provide a post meeting update to Members.