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Caution urged head of Tier announcements

by Gemma Melling

As we approach a national review of the Tier system (an announcement is expected on Thursday 17 December 2020), here’s a summary of where Knowsley is up to and what has happened since the borough was placed in Tier 2 on 3 December 2020:

Rates have continued to fall

On 3 December 2020, Knowsley was placed in Tier 2 along with all other local authority areas in the Liverpool City Region. At that point, Knowsley was seeing 119.3 positive cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population. Rates have since continued to fall and now stand at 98.1 per 100,000 (as at 10 December 2020).

The rate of decline has slowed and figures are levelling off

While the number of positive cases is now much lower than it was a couple of months ago, the rate of decline has slowed recently, and rates seem to have stabilised at around 100 per 100,000 population. Whilst this is still a huge improvement on the rates we saw in October 2020 (which at one point were around 740 per 100,000), this is still higher than we want it to be.

Importantly, with Christmas coming and more festive relaxation imminent, there is a concern that rates could start to increase again – this is not something which anyone would want to see. An increase in rates is likely to mean more people getting ill (with the consequent impact on our NHS) and also potentially more restrictions on our lives as we move into the New Year.

SMART testing is also having an impact on rates

We know that many Knowsley residents were tested as part of Liverpool’s mass testing (now known as SMART testing) pilot scheme. More than 100 people from Knowsley have been identified as having COVID-19 through the Liverpool scheme, so our figures now include those cases – these are cases which we would not be aware of if it wasn’t for additional testing taking place.

SMART testing is now available to all Knowsley residents

SMART testing has now been rolled out in Knowsley too, so residents without symptoms can all be tested locally. By doing more testing, we are going to identify more people with the virus, and this will increase our figures in the short-term. But, by identifying more people with the virus, we can stop them from passing it on – which will contribute to lowering our rates in the longer term and managing the virus locally.

Call in to Volair leisure centres in Halewood, Huyton and Kirkby (Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm and from 10am to 4pm at weekends) – no appointment is needed.

Our local Track & Trace system is working well

Knowsley’s own Track & Trace team started work on 6 October 2020. Since then, we have been given almost 1,700 cases to follow up. These cases are individuals who the national system has failed to contact. Our local team has been able to follow up by successfully contacting 62% of these cases.

In addition to telephone follow-up, our team has also launched a “door knocking” service to advise people that they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Engaging with Track & Trace is essential in reducing the spread of the virus in our communities and our local team is playing a really important part.

Are we going to stay in Tier 2?

We have not yet been given any indication as to which Tier the Government will place us in from Thursday this week. However, given our rates, and the extensive work which we are doing to understand the virus in our community and get as many people tested as possible, we are hopeful that at this point we will remain in Tier 2. We await confirmation.

We have to remain cautious and not lose focus now

We know how quickly the case numbers can rise if we let the virus get out of control, so we all have to continue to do our bit and we must not lose focus now. Follow the rules and do the “right” thing and hopefully we can keep our rates under control.

If we don’t do this, the risk is significant. More people will get ill and we could move into Tier 3 or even worse see national lockdown restrictions happen again in the New Year.

Our position in Tier 2 is something which we have to work to maintain in the coming weeks. If we all want to see the restrictions loosen in the coming weeks and months, we all need to focus our efforts once again to stop the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 vaccinations are imminent

There is positive news on the horizon as COVID-19 vaccinations are now beginning to be rolled out. The most vulnerable and their carers will be immunised first, and everyone will be notified when it is their turn to be vaccinated.

This is a huge roll-out programme, so please be patient and make sure that when you are contacted, you attend your appointment and get your vaccination.