Presentation from the Corporate Director of People.
The Sub-Committee received a presentation from the Directors of Public Health and Adult Social Care which provided an update on the latest Covid-19 figures in Harrow, the borough’s response to the pandemic and its winter surge plans.
The Director outlined the presentation, focusing on a number of key points:
· rate of infections in Harrow was on the rise and at the time of the reporting stood at 192.3 per 100 000 of population. Of particular concern was the rise in the over 60s rate, which had increased by nearly 45% from the previous week. In terms of deaths in Harrow, the Director reported 412 recorded by the end of October 2020, the majority of which had occurred between March and June. The virus was spreading equally across the borough with no specific patterns or areas hot spots;
· testing was under way and the borough’s major testing site in South Harrow was operating at full capacity . In addition to the existing mobile testing unit and care home testing, the Council was looking to develop two further sites, subject to confirmation by the Department of Health. Preparations were also under way for the roll out of lateral flow devices, which would enable quicker results;
· whilst 80% of positive Covid cases were contacted by NHS Test and Trace, the Council was still receiving referrals and was supporting the contact tracing process on a local level. However, progress was slowed or impeded due to incomplete or incorrect data;
· business grants and personal isolation payments for people on low income affected by Covid-19 were available. Issues remained with some employers requesting staff to self-isolate without entering their details on the NHS Test and Trace system.
· delivery of the UK vaccination programme would be led by the NHS, with Harrow Council working with the Clinical Commissioning Group in identifying mass vaccination sites in the borough as well as GPs in setting up plans for meeting government targets. It was expected that the first batch of vaccines would be available from the middle of December 2020 to care home patients and staff, with a general public roll out to follow.
· Harrow Council had adopted the National Winter Plan which was published in September 2020, and had incorporated a number of recommendations, including risks to care market service continuity, contingency and collaborative work across several areas. The Plan had been shared with key partners and would be updated on a regular basis.
Members welcomed the update and in the followed discussion, asked a series of questions which were responded to as follows:
· lateral flow tests were very sensitive and detected almost 95% of positive Covid cases, providing an alternative to traditional PCR tests. Occasional batch problems were possible and there was a need to provide appropriate training to staff in their administration and interpretation, which was part of the Council’s roll out strategy;
· amongst the explanations behind the rising number of Covid cases amongst young people, was their recent return to college or university, lack of social distancing, prevalence of face-to-face work and general attitude towards the virus. Further work was required on sending out a clear message to young people warning them about the risks in inadvertently spreading the virus, particular through household mixing;
· no clear indication of numbers of asymptomatic people available but some indication available through antibody testing, blood donor testing and symptomatic trackers. By the end of the summer an estimate 17% of Londoners were infected with Covid, with a high proportion of asymptomatic cases found in care homes. The number of positive cases before the asymptomatic tests were rolled out was just 1.7%. The Council was exploring the possibility of introducing a rapid testing in care homes and schools, which may result in further detection of cases. The Director of Public Health confirmed that although the Council was not part of the initial roll out of rapid testing in London, it had submitted an expression of interest and had put a plan in place in preparation for the roll out;
· amongst the lessons learned from the first wave of Covid-19 cases was how to apply a whole systems approach to mitigate the impact on care homes and hospitals in case of disruption to PPE; maintaining communication with providers; providing rapid clinical help; and process of hospital discharge, which avoids further re-infection in care homes;
· hospitals were expected to provide appropriate advice to people accompanying Covid patients. Anyone who tested positive of Covid-19 outside of hospitals would be entered into the NHS Test and Trace system, which would reach out to their close contacts and relatives. According to the latest figures, there were 81 Covid positive patients in Harrow, compared to 71 the previous week. Numbers had stabilised and Northwick Park Hospital had sufficient beds to treat patients in a timely manner and there was good support from partners. In addition, Central Middlesex Hospital had been identified as a lateral flow test site. The test was piloted across staff in the hospital and was due to be rolled out from next week.
Having thanked officers for their presentation and expressed reassurance towards Harrow’s capacity to deal with the pandemic, the Sub-Committee
RESOLVED: That the update on Harrow’s response to Covid be noted.