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Royal Borough outlines 'agile' COVID-19 outbreak plan

The council has outlined its action plan in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in the borough.

All local authorities were required to create a ‘Local Outbreak Control Plan’ by June 30, and the Royal Borough’s was presented to the virtual health and wellbeing board meeting on Tuesday.

Councils in England were also given new powers to manage local outbreaks of coronavirus, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday.

There have been more than 400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Royal Borough, with 12 reported between July 7 and July 20.

The board – chaired by the council’s head of health Cllr Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill) – learned that the borough’s case figure per 100,000 people was 272.4.

Members heard from Anna Richards, consultant in public health at the council, who explained the council’s collaborative approach to a virus outbreak.

“We worked collaboratively across the six unitary authorities in Berkshire to create the Outbreak Control Plans,” she said.

“A very large proportion of the plans are standardised across all six authorities but then they take on their own borough flavour in terms of the specific details.”

The meeting was told that each plan should look at seven key themes, including managing outbreaks in specific settings – like care homes – and preventing outbreaks in other high-risk places, such as the workplace.

Other themes of note included deploying local testing capacity and communicating with the general public.

A ‘Local Outbreak Engagement Board’ has been created and held its first meeting this month. They are held every month but could be increased in frequency if required.

“The communication with residents is absolutely central to managing an outbreak,” Ms Richards said.

“The engagement board meeting was really successful.”

Actions that might be taken to slow an outbreak could include closure of premises, cancelling events, and alert messaging.

An outbreak would be notified by Public Health England or another organisation, which will alert the Royal Borough’s environmental health team.

Once they are aware, the information will be shared with a newly-created group called the East Berkshire Health Protection Cell.

This has been funded by test and trace money from central Government and will work between the three local authorities in East Berkshire.

The group will then inform figures at the council and help take relevant action.

Ms Richards added: “The plan is constantly being updated and that is true for all local authorities as we learn new things.

“The plan changes as we start to exercise it and test it.”

Cllr Carroll told the meeting: “I know from the initial meetings I have been involved in sitting on that board, we have got a lot of detail and focus there which is precisely what we need.

“It will be highly agile to respond to circumstances as is required.”

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