* The number of positive cases nationally is declining rapidly, importantly deaths are also declining.
* Announcement from Prime Minister scheduled for Monday on a roadmap for coming out of lockdown. Not yet clear yet whether it will be a tiered approach or in a different fashion, it is expected to bring more children and young people back into school from 8th March.
* There are a number of new variants of the virus: the Kent variant which we have locally and is far more transmissible. Also South African, Brazil, Denmark, many variants have been identified now through genome sequencing. UK has larger capacity on genome sequencing than other countries so scientists in UK have been looking ahead for any number of possible variants.
* Variants are quite normal – as viruses struggle to find a new host, they mutate to find new routes of transmission. Viruses are really clever. Some will be less infectious, some more. Some may cause different symptoms, some more serious and some less serious. As a world, we must get to grips with variations and that’s what the surge testing looks for e.g. in Bristol & South Gloucs.
* This work will continue for years. Many experts thinking now that we will have to learn to live with this virus, like flu and so need an annual booster, possibly starting in the autumn of this year.
* The stay at home message is still most important. Don’t go out unless really essential, that will reduce transmission of the virus most effectively.
* Important that people don’t believe they are OK to move around because they have had one or two vaccinations. Scientists are still researching on how effective vaccines are against transmission. It takes 2 to 3 weeks to develop immune response following vaccination and even then it’s not known whether you can pass on the virus.
* Although there are still symptoms in care home residents, following vaccinations, that can be a legacy of virus, particularly if people are older and frail.
* We must have a carefully managed process of unlocking. The Kent variant is well established in Somerset and our positive cases could go straight back up and we do not yet have vaccinations at a level to cope without the existing precautions of SPACE – FACE – HANDS - VENTILATION
* Like any country with tourism economy, there has to be concern in Somerset about opening up in time for holidays.
* Latest figure in Somerset is 78.8 per 100,000. Over 18,000 cases detected so far. Third wave figures have now dropped back back to mid October 2020 numbers.
* Mendip 63.2 per 10,000. Sedgemoor 112 per 100,000. SWaT 85.1 per 100,000. South Somerset 59.4 per 100,000.
* Cases expected to continue to reduce by half each fortnight. Lots more yellow and green on the map now, any red on the map is caused by individual outbreaks.
* R rate is now 0.7 – 0.9 for south west. It peaked in early January, and has been declining since. London figures are worst, then England, then South West, then Somerset – we are well below the England average.
* Sadly 682 deaths in Somerset – be aware that there is a lag in data, this figure is to 5th Feb. Latest data is just within 5 year averages data, but the week before was above the average. Actual rate of deaths now declining in Somerset, hoping to see that continue.
* Somerset hospitals are reporting much reduced numbers of patients with Covid.
* Ambulance service is reporting staffing at near normal levels for winter months.
Vaccination Programme Update We have come a long way in a very short time. Different sites are now operational across the whole County: * Fixed sites for Heath & Care colleagues and other organisations where staff are in direct contact with patients. * County vaccination centres at Taunton Racecourse & Bath & West Showground. * Primary care network – 13 sites and will extend further. * Roving model – for people at home. * Pharmacy sites are open now – opportunities across the County.
* There are nine cohorts of priorities for vaccination, Somerset is now on cohorts five and six. The priorities are based on a Green Book approach, with details taken from GP records.
* Some details may be out of date if an old condition no longer affects you, that may explain an unexpected call or letter for vaccination.
* If you are not on list, and not been called but are clinically vulnerable, then GPs are concentrating on this list now.
* First four cohorts were completed by 15th February, remaining cohorts to be completed by 1st May.
* Important to understand that if you’ve had Covid recently, you can’t have vaccination straight away as it may exacerbate symptoms.
* Somerset is top of the country’s list for first four cohorts. Really good uptake: started early in programme; had good flow of vaccine; GPs have stepped up at short notice; local population really keen to have the vaccination. Was expected 70 – 80% nationally but closer to 100% in Somerset.
* Most care homes now vaccinated – residents and staff – some still waiting because of outbreaks, just four homes left that still need the vaccination team visit. Most care homes now planning for second vaccinations. There will be some ‘mop up’ where there are new people in care homes, don’t worry as they won’t be missed.
* Total number of Somerset vaccinations so far is over 180,000.
* Pressure will be seen on the programme as second doses start in earnest.
* Taunton Racecourse and Bath &West will remain open to May for second doses to be at the same place. Need to move vaccinations more to bigger centres to allow GPs to return to their usual work. Work is continuing on availability of sites for longer term.
* The programme is obviously dependent on the flow of vaccine – Pfizer and Oxford AZ are producing at capacity. Somerset had adequate supplies for the first four cohorts. Expecting flow of vaccines to grow nationally and later cohorts will be brought forward as vaccine supply allows.
* Second doses – planning is in place to allow for move to second doses. If you’ve had your first dose and don’t yet have a date for your second jab, call 119 to book a second date at the same place.
* Some people with high allergy risks will be vaccinated at a hospital setting. If unwell to some degree following vaccination, that’s good as it shows the vaccine is working. But if more than that, please speak to your GP.
* As Council staff return to their usual work, the NHS will have to replace them and that will create more pressure.
* It is really crucial to have a good programme of testing. It needs to be reliable and accurate with quick results, essential to identify people with the disease as quickly as possible so that they are treated and to stop them spreading the infection.
* If the testing over diagnoses, then lots of people go into unnecessary self isolation. If testing under diagnoses, then you allow people to continue spreading. You need to find those who are asymptomatic too, as they are spreading the virus without knowledge.
* It is possible that those vaccinated may still carry the virus, and therefore infect others. Testing will remain important and other preventative control measures are essential – PPE, social distancing, hand washing, also ventilation.
* Pillar 1 testing is in the NHS, patients and staff – over 5,000 in Somerset are tested every week.
* Pillar 2 testing is the Department Health & Social Care national testing programme. Walk in testing, care homes, home testing, domicillary care, hospice staff & patients, and residents. Over 45,000 tests a week - a huge workload.
* Surge testing for new variants – currently in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Aiming for 140,000 people to be tested, up to 40,000 so far. They will follow up on asymptomatic positives and send to labs for identification of any variants and how they transmit. Part of national research studies.
* Somerset prepared should surge testing be needed here, hopefully not.
* Testing at schools will be key but if you bring everyone into the school hall for testing, you expose people to each other. Better to test at home before going into school.
* Hinkley as a big local employer invested in testing programme. Smaller employers can invest in the scheme, in order to monitor and support workforce.
* Redeployed County Council staff visit workplaces to test all staff following an outbreak. In one outbreak 347 people were tested and 30 workers tested positive and then isolated.
Specifics of community testing include the following:
1. Test to Understand the disease (a national programme)
2. Test to Diagnose the disease (a national programme)
3. Test to Protect (testing for people working with vulnerable people, to be tested twice a week)
4. Test to Case Find (for example Dept for Education looking to find cases before they come into the school/college setting. This may increase our case numbers, don’t worry it’s because we will be testing more)
5. Test to Release (for example, test to allow back to school or workplace)
6. Test to Enable (maybe test to allow travel or attendance at festivals if negative)
Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) * Lateral Flow Devices have quite a low sensitivity and can give 30 – 50% false negatives so allowing people to continue to spread the infection. * Positive LFD is a definite red light. If you have a positive LFD test in Somerset, you will receive a phone call. * Negative LFD is NOT a green light. * LFD devices are being used in Somerset to find asymptomatic positives. * Schools testing programme is a national programme, Somerset is supporting the schools.
Even if you have been vaccinated, you must still get tested if you have symptoms of Covid-19.
If you have symptoms and need a test, ring 119 or go online www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
If you have had one - or two - vaccinations that is not a green light to go out and mix with other people. You may still be able to give the virus to other people.