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Knowsley’s latest Outbreak Management Board meeting took place on Friday 17 September 2021. At the meeting, the Board reviewed the latest data available and updates on the current level of COVID-19 cases in the Borough.
- The level of COVID-19 cases in Knowsley had slightly to 387 per 100,000 population.
- In particular, there had been a significant decrease in the number of new cases being identified in the adult population. This included the over 60s cohort which had seen a welcome 40% reduction in case levels.
- However, case levels within children and young people continued to be high (954.6 per 100,000 population). This impact was common across the region and the wider country, and was not unexpected given the recent return of largely unvaccinated children and young people to school.
- The Board was provided with an update of the case levels being seen across the Knowsley school community and the steps being taken to mitigate the risks. All Knowsley schools are responding well to the challenges and working closely with Knowsley’s Public Health and Education teams where outbreaks do occur.
- Hospital admissions continued to increase steadily in the region and in general – these pressures are not just related to COVID-19 – hospitals are generally busy and under significant pressure.
- 92,000 eligible Knowsley residents have now received both doses of the vaccine. However, Knowsley’s vaccine take-up rates – particularly among younger age groups – continue to be below other areas. For example, first vaccine uptake in the 16-17 year age group in Knowsley is 29% compared to 46% across Cheshire and Merseyside.
- The Board reiterated their concerns about this “gap” in vaccine take-up rates and expressed concerns that relatively high COVID-19 case levels could lead to widening health inequalities within the Borough.
- Following a prior request from the Board, an update was given providing insight into approaches deployed in other local areas where vaccine uptake is higher. All concluded that Knowsley agencies were acting as proactively as possible in terms of communicating the need for the vaccine and how to access it. In this respect, it was noted that significant work had taken place to improve availability and access in recent weeks.
- All concluded that more insight was needed into the local views and perceptions which may be preventing/discouraging vaccine uptake. This work is ongoing.
- It was confirmed that vaccinations would be offered within school settings from next week to 12-15 year olds.
- It was also confirmed that residents eligible for booster vaccinations would also start to be contacted by GPs from next week.
- The Board was concerned at feedback that vaccination rates were particularly low amongst pregnant women and was keen to ensure an increase in targeted communications to this group. This includes work with health professionals (e.g. midwives).
- A brief update was provided on the Prime Minister’s announcement of the Government’s Winter Plan. It was confirmed that vaccinations remain the key priority in this next phase of the country’s management of COVID-19.
- The Board noted that the Prime Minister had also confirmed that a “Plan B”’ – with more restrictive measures (such as mandatory face coverings in some settings, working from home etc.) – could be triggered in the case of “unsustainable pressure on the NHS”. The Board noted a lack of clarity as to how such pressure on the NHS would be measured or determined. This situation will need to continue to be monitored closely.
The Board is chaired by the Leader of the Council, Councillor Graham Morgan, and membership includes the Council’s Adult Social Care Cabinet Member (Councillor Louise Harbour), Resources Cabinet Member (Councillor Jayne Aston), Health Cabinet Member (Councillor Christine Bannon), and Chief Executive (Mike Harden) alongside Knowsley’s Director of Public Health (Dr Sarah McNulty) and representatives from Merseyside Police (when required).