National help sought to combat high number of Covid cases in Suffolk
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Public Health chiefs in Suffolk are today set to call in national support teams to help Covid-19 efforts amid concerns over high numbers of virus cases.
An emergency meeting of the local outbreak engagement board was told teams would aid work around vaccinations, outbreaks - including significant outbreaks in schools - and communications.
The county is requesting that it becomes an Enhanced Response Area – a five-week period where additional government teams, support and resources are used to clampdown on Covid cases, as well as address vaccination take-up problems.
That decision must be made by the UK Health Security Agency and Number 10 Downing Street, with more details expected to emerge over the next few days.
However, early details have indicated that support could include a fast-tracking of issues to Government, enhanced measures in schools, national teams supporting local outbreak teams with surge testing, additional local volunteers being recruited, door-knocking and other logistics support for areas of lower-vaccine take-up, and extra funding and resources for messaging campaigns.
Public Health Suffolk director Stuart Keeble said: “We have had higher rates, we have got concerns around vaccine update – particularly lower rates in Ipswich, we have been experiencing significant outbreaks in schools.
“We are all a bit fatigued by the last couple of years around the messaging and everything that is happening, and we need to find a way of cutting through some of that and focusing on what we need to do as a population in Suffolk over the winter to get us through and get us where we need to.
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“To be clear, the discussions we are having with an enhanced response area doesn’t mean there will be additional restrictions on people’s movements or actions, it is not about tiering or anything like that.
“It has been a conversation about what other support we can pull down on to help us manage the rates locally and to support the health and social care system through what is currently, and will continue to be, a very challenging time.
“It’s welcome our rates have plateaued or are starting to fall in some areas, but our view is that we need to chase the rates back down again to put us in the best possible position for the winter.”
The current case rate in Suffolk is 536.8 per 100,000 – above the England average of 487.4 and the East of England average of 522.7.
Last week, Ipswich had seen the highest levels in the country at 854.5 cases per 100,000, which has now dropped to 759.7, putting it 25th nationally currently.
Public Health Suffolk said the situation remained a challenge however, urging people to be responsible and maintain measures such as wearing face masks in shops and regular hand washing.
Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council leader, said: “We are all fully supportive.
“We have a really strong track record in Suffolk of working together.
“We have had difficult winters before and anything we can do to help get the messaging out we are all there.”