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Berkshire's COVID recovery and Royal Borough contact tracing system discussed at council meeting

How Berkshire recovers post-COVID and a virus contact tracing system within the Royal Borough were discussed at a council meeting this week.

The health and wellbeing board met on Tuesday to discuss an agenda focused heavily on coronavirus.

Director of Public Health for Berkshire, Tessa Lindfield, updated members on her organisation’s annual report concerning how the county recovers from the pandemic.

Ms Lindfield started by referencing pictures of doctors who have died from the virus, with many from black and other minority backgrounds.

“We really do know that black and ethnic communities have really borne a specific burden of COVID,” she said.

Ms Lindfield added that the virus is going to be a ‘longer-term challenge’.

“It isn’t going to be something that is stamped out like a fire and over, and then we move into the recovery phase,” she added.

“We might think it’s too early to start thinking about recovery, but what’s really clear is the way we respond now will influence what is needed and possible in recovery.

“I don’t think it’s ever too soon to start having these conversations.”

Ms Lindfield then set out 10 key things to consider for recovery, including: employment, young people, mental health and the environment.

A graphic under the employment section of the report showed that a total of 21,700 jobs had been furloughed in the Royal Borough as of July, with nearly 138,000 in Berkshire as a whole.

And referencing mental health, Ms Lindfield added: “We know from previous emergencies that the mental health issues that we think are going to be more prevalent in our community will come to light more as the impact lands.”

Later in the meeting, Cllr Carole Da Costa (WWRA, Clewer and Dedworth East) asked how effective the test and trace scheme was working in the area.

Anna Richards, consultant in public health at the council, said that 68.7 per cent of cases, and 72.1 per cent of contacts, have been ‘successfully completed’.

Ms Richards added that the council is working to create a local contact tracing system within the Royal Borough.

“This is something that Slough has already done,” she said.

“The remaining local authorities across Berkshire are working collaboratively with Public Health England to develop their own system as well.

“The benefit of that is we will be able to contact more people quicker, but also be able to get additional information which will help us think about the steps we need to take to contain the virus.”

Addressing the subject of the virus as a whole, Bray Conservative councillor David Coppinger said: “Most of us do not know anyone who have had it [the virus]. It still seems someone else’s problem.

“I have got two people in my immediate family involved.

“I don’t think people are really realising how quickly it is spreading and we must take action.”

Also discussed at the Zoom meeting was feedback from the council’s ‘Local Outbreak Engagement Board’.

This leads the communications in the event of a virus outbreak in the borough and engages people with the council’s own ‘Outbreak Control Plan’, set out in July.

Meeting chairman Cllr Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill) sits on the board, which is increasing its meeting frequency.

He said the group ‘has been very successfully set up’, adding the council will be working more closely with the police over enforcement of COVID rules in the borough.

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