Agenda item

Covid-19 Update

Mark Adams, Director of Public Heath (South Tees) will be in attendance to provide an update on COVID-19 and the local Public Health / NHS response.


The Director of Public Heath for South Tees provided the Panel with an update on latest Covid-19 situation. The Panel were advised that the information presented only touched on the impact of the Omicron Variant.


Middlesbrough’s infection rate per 100,000 stood at 316 placing it 135th in England. Ultimately, while rates were high they were not as high as other parts of the country. Community transmission was also quite stable.


When examined by age range the 40-44 year old and the 10-14 age groups saw increases. However, these were not as high as they had been in October. Public Health had contacted schools recommending the implementation of wearing face coverings in communal areas and other measures that could help reduce infection.


In specific cases where infections were high in schools the Public Health team worked with those schools to issue letters to parents.


Hospital rates were in the 50s for South Tees with seven people in critical care which was a consistent trend. This was in contrast to over 200 inpatients in January 2021. However, it was the noted that while the vaccine programme had assisted with this decrease the hospital system remained under strain.


Mortality rates were also improved on previous waves.


In terms of vaccination rates; 75% of people had received a first does of the vaccine with just under 67% having both doses. As with previous updates vaccine take up rates began to decline when examining younger age groups.


There were still areas of the town that had low take up rates of the vaccine which were likely to suffer disproportionately from Covid-19 infections. Public Health were continuing to work to improve this situation.


With regard to the Omicron Variant; initial data suggested it was more infectious than the Delta Variant, which itself was more infection than the Alpha Variant. There was also some evidence from South Africa that there was a greater reinfection rate. However, there was also initial evidence to suggest that the vaccine provided protection against severe illness.


It was, nevertheless, difficult to translate the South African experience into the UK experience. Based on this information, however, all adults over the age of 18 would be provided the opportunity for the vaccine booster although there was some confused messaging around this.


Government advice had been released about increasing capacity around Primary Care and community pharmacy sites.


It was confirmed that there were no cases in the Tees Valley but given the rising numbers nationally this would be an inevitability.


The Chair queried if Middlesbrough would follow other areas in seeing Omicron cases as it had with other variants. It was clarified that the spread of Omicron would be random depending on contacts. One of the only ways to limit such a spread would be an intensive contact trace regime and encouraging isolation periods.


A Member sought clarification on the strategies being used to encourage people to get the vaccine. It was clarified where vaccines were taken to communities there was, generally, good take up rates with pop up sites continuing as a result. It was noted that targeted communications required navigating Data Protection issues, but general communication and work with community champions continued. This allowed conversations that could help reduce concerns over the vaccine. The Member commented there had been a successful vaccine take up programme via the Community Hubs which brought vaccination sites within close reach of communities.


A Member queried what could be done to encourage more people to wear face coverings in appropriate settings. It was clarified that while work was being undertaken by the Council in terms of messaging and application, any enforcement action was the responsibility of the police.


The Chair thanked the Director of Public Health for his update.


ORDERED: that the information presented be noted.