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Monday, May 16, 2022

Outbreak board monitoring Covid surges across Notts to be disbanded

Jonathan Gribbin, public health director for the county, has officially disbanded the board after recommending to councillors it should be phased down.

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An outbreak control board which monitored Covid surges across parts of Nottinghamshire will be disbanded as the county begins to roll out its ‘living with Covid’ strategy.

The board, which met to discuss major outbreaks in council-led and community settings, has not met in an official capacity since July last year – despite the surge from the Omicron variant over Christmas.

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And Jonathan Gribbin, public health director for the county, has officially disbanded the board after recommending to councillors it should be phased down.

However, he has said Nottinghamshire County Council will have the capacity to re-establish the board in the event of a future outbreak or new variant of the disease.

Mr Gribbin, who led the authority’s response to the pandemic, told councillors during a public health committee meeting on Monday (April 25) that Covid hospitalisations are stabilising.

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He confirmed there is a high level of infections countywide despite the removal of free community testing, but stated this is not translating to high levels of serious illness on hospital wards in the city and county.

Latest Government figures show Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs King’s Mill, Newark and Mansfield Community Hospitals, has 111 people in its sites who have tested positive for the virus.

Just one of these patients is on a ventilation bed.

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Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Queen’s Medical Centre and the City Hospital, has 298 current Covid-positive patients, with four people on ventilators.

And speaking in the meeting at County Hall, Mr Gribbin says this is partly the result of high levels of vaccination in the county and the “effectiveness” of the vaccine programme.

County Hall Nottingham
PICTURED: County Hall

He said: “As a result of relatively high levels of vaccination across the population, and the effectiveness of the vaccination programme, there are now – given a high level of infections – very few people in hospital who are ill with Covid.

“The total number of people in hospital with a diagnosis of Covid still runs at several hundred, but most or many of those people are not in hospital as a result of Covid.

“There are just a handful of people in hospital on mechanical ventilation as a result of a diagnosis of Covid.

“We still have high rates of infection but, relatively speaking now, thankfully relatively small numbers of people experiencing serious illness.

“But we have to be mindful that, in the period ahead, we may see further waves and we may see new variants come through.”

Mr Gribbin told councillors Nottinghamshire County Council has about £9 million in unallocated Covid reserves which can be used to target future outbreaks or any surges of the virus.

Future plans to manage life after the pandemic include funding three community health champion coordinators to develop a network of volunteers, who will be promoting the vaccination programme.

There is also funding for small community projects to enhance the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine.

However, Mr Gribbin expects Covid to become like seasonal flu, with outbreaks occurring during the winter months. However, in a report published before the meeting, he stated this could take up to a decade.

Commenting on disbanding the Covid engagement board, he added: “Notwithstanding some of the extreme pressures the local system faced in the winter period, that board hasn’t had to meet again [since July last year].

“I’m proposing that should be stood down and formally disestablished but, of course, if the need arises I’m asking for the authority to reestablish it – should that be needed again in the future.”

Members of the adult social care and public health committee unanimously approved disestablishing the outbreak control and engagement board.

Councillor Boyd Elliott (Con), chairman of the committee, said: “Covid-19 response will now be conducted on a business-as-usual basis, along with other health protection responsibilities.”

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