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Knowsley Outbreak Management Board Update: 14 January

by Gemma Melling

PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE HAS NOW BEEN ARCHIVED AND THE DATA CONTAINED BELOW IS NO LONGER UP-TO-DATE.

Knowsley’s latest Outbreak Management Board meeting took place on Thursday 14 January 2021.  At the meeting, the Board reviewed the latest data available and updates on the current level of cases in the borough.

In summary:

  • Knowsley has recently been experiencing some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the whole of the country and the highest ever recorded for the borough.
  • The rate of people in Knowsley testing positive for COVID-19 is 1,461 per 100,000 population (as at 8 January, 2021) which reflected a further increase on the figure presented to the Board last week (932 per 100,000).
  • Approximately 20%-25% of cases are being identified through Knowsley’s SMART Testing facilities. It was noted that, even if these numbers were excluded, the level of positive cases would still be extremely high and therefore a cause for significant concern.
  • Knowsley’s Director of Public Health outlined to the Board some of the factors which were contributing to the severity of the COVID-19 impact in Knowsley, including the relaxation of restrictions up to and over the Christmas period and the resulting increased socialisation.
  • It was also noted that parts of the Knowsley population are particularly susceptible to catching COVID-19 due to a number of factors including people working in low wage professions and therefore less likely to be able to work from home, low car ownership and therefore increased use of public transport, and multi-generational living.
  • The Board was presented with some mobility data for Knowsley which showed that the use of public transport and numbers of people still travelling to work during lockdown were still at a similar level as prior to Christmas when fewer restrictions were in place. In this respect, the lockdown may be having a less immediate positive impact on virus transmission in Knowsley.
  • Additional transport data showed that bus usage in the Liverpool City Region was currently four times greater than it was during the first lockdown in March 2020. Again, this suggested that the current lockdown may not have as immediate an impact as was hoped.
  • The Board was clear that the current lockdown was not as restrictive as previous lockdowns and expressed concern that this would impact on its effectiveness in tackling transmission of the virus.
  • Knowsley’s SMART Testing centres continue to operate well, and feedback has been very positive from the community using the facilities.
  • Since the SMART Testing centres were launched on 8 December 2020, 41,080 tests have been carried out in Knowsley and 1,211 people have been identified as having COVID-19 without symptoms. Assuming that these people then self-isolated as required, this means that the centres have “caught and killed” 1,211 cases of the virus so far.
  • The Board noted the change of focus for SMART testing to ensure that it is made available for those who are unable to stay at home during lockdown – this follows new advice from the Government.
  • The Board was updated on a number of outbreaks across the borough including those in workplaces, care homes etc. It was noted by all that an increased number of such outbreaks is an obvious consequence of the current high prevalence of the virus in the community.  The Board was updated on the advice and support provided in the case of outbreaks and was assured that regular monitoring is ongoing.
  • It was noted that there are many businesses within the borough who are still asking/requiring staff to attend the workplace. In some cases, this may be unavoidable (e.g. manufacturing industry) but it is important for all businesses to understand when such attendance is essential and that, when it is not, employees are encouraged and facilitated to work from home.
  • With this in mind, the Board agreed to write to all businesses to encourage them to consider their own personal responsibilities during lockdown and to “play their part” in efforts to bring case rates down.
  • A brief update was provided on the roll-out of the vaccination programme. The Board was advised that more than 4,500 Knowsley residents had so far received their first dose of the vaccine. Aside from any care homes with current outbreaks, vaccinations of care home residents and staff has also progressed with the majority now complete.
  • A new vaccination centre in Kirkby opened on 14 January 2021 and Knowsley Clinical Commissioning Group is progressing with plans to open another centre imminently at The Hollies Community Centre in Halewood.
  • The Board requested another full update on the programme from Knowsley Clinical Commissioning Group at the next meeting.
  • Merseyside Police updated on joint enforcement work ongoing in the borough with the council and other partner agencies. It was confirmed that nine Fixed Penalty Notices had been issued to individuals attending a house party in Kirkby last weekend.
  • All agreed that residents and the community at large are well aware of the rules and responsibilities and that enforcement action should now be prioritised in cases where breaches are identified.
  • The Board also called for increased enforcement at Bowring Park Golf Course in view of ongoing reports that individuals were continuing to trespass on the course, despite the facility being closed and it being illegal to do so.
  • It was noted that supermarkets remained a concern for residents and visits will continue with increasing frequency to ensure that rules are being observed by customers and businesses are proactively ensuring compliance.

The Knowsley Outbreak Management Board is responsible for overseeing Knowsley’s Outbreak Management Plan – you can read it on Knowsley Council’s website.

The Board is chaired by the Leader of the Council, Councillor Graham Morgan, and membership includes the Council’s Health and Social Care Cabinet Member (Councillor Sean Donnelly), Resources Cabinet Member (Councillor Jayne Aston), and Chief Executive (Mike Harden) alongside Knowsley’s Director of Public Health (Dr Sarah McNulty) and representatives from Merseyside Police and the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.