PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE HAS NOW BEEN ARCHIVED AND THE DATA CONTAINED BELOW IS NO LONGER UP-TO-DATE.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 7 January 2021. At the meeting, the Board reviewed the latest data available and updates on the current level of cases in the borough.
- The rate of COVID-19 cases in Knowsley increased by 500% in the period from 1 to 31 December 2020.
- The rate of people in Knowsley testing positive for COVID-19 is 932 per 100,000 population (as at 3 January 2021). This is a very significant increase and a major cause for concern.
- As a comparison, the rate recorded just one month previously (as at 3 December 2020) was 95.5 per 100,000 population – the rate has increased almost tenfold in a month.
- The current level of cases is also significantly higher than the previous peak in October 2020, when data showed that the case numbers in Knowsley had reached 720 per 100,000 population.
- Knowsley is clearly seeing the impact of the new variant of the virus, as well as the effect of the relaxation of rules on Christmas Day and increased socialisation over the Christmas and New Year period.
- The Board also noted that case levels are likely to continue to increase until the impact of lockdown measures can be seen.
- It was particularly noted that the number of cases within the 17-24 year old age group is high and driving up overall rates for Knowsley. This is likely due in part to increased socialising over the Christmas and New Year period, but will also be caused by other persistent factors affecting the Knowsley population, such as higher numbers of people with front-facing jobs in the low wage economy who have no choice but to use public transport.
- The Board noted that, whilst this age group is usually not seriously impacted by the illness caused by the virus, they are still very likely to pass COVID-19 on to other age groups – including the over 60s where the illness presents a greater risk to life and is creating overwhelming pressure on local hospitals.
- Targeted communications to this age group have been issued in order to advise them to follow the lockdown rules and adhere strictly to the rules around social mixing in particular. Similar communications will follow.
- Rates in the over 60s population also continue to rise. At the beginning of December 2020, these stood at 58.6 per 100,000 – the level had risen to 287 per 100,000 by the end of December 2020. These rates have continued to rise and are now at 440 per 100,000.
- Again, the Board noted this as a major concern, specifically due to the risk which the virus presents in this age group and also due to the usual trend of such figures translating into more hospital admissions over time.
- Undoubtedly, Knowsley is now seeing very widespread community 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, 28,051 tests have been carried out and 676 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” 676 cases of the virus so far.
- The Board noted that additional cases identified through SMART testing are not the reason why cases in Knowsley are so high. If all of the cases identified through SMART testing are removed from the data the increase is still worryingly steep. In addition, it was noted that through follow ups that a significant proportion of asymptomatic cases go on to develop symptoms a short time after testing. This means that cases are detected day or two before the usual symptomatic testing would. This is of benefit because individuals are infective and can transmit the virus to others during this period.
- In addition to the SMART testing centres in Halewood, Huyton, and Kirkby, additional “pop-up” facilities will be opening imminently in Knowsley Village and Prescot.
- A rise in hospital admissions was noted alongside an increase in the number of High Dependency Unit/Intensive Therapy Unit beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. The Board was clear that local hospitals face a very difficult few weeks ahead and this is a further major concern.
- A brief update was provided on the roll-out of the vaccination programme. Currently, more than 1,000 Knowsley residents have been vaccinated from the Huyton vaccination centre.
- A vaccination centre in Kirkby is due to open imminently and Knowsley Clinical Commissioning Group awaits confirmation of the delivery of more vaccines – including the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine.
- It was confirmed that care home vaccinations were also under way and progressing well, with a number of homes completing their vaccinations of residents this week.
- An update was provided from Merseyside Police on enforcement activity over the Christmas and New Year period. It was noted that it had been a busy time (despite the hospitality industry being closed on New Year’s Eve).
- It was also noted that Merseyside Police had identified individuals/groups travelling to the Liverpool City Region when it remained in Tier 2 – the fact that the City Region had been under fewer restrictions appeared to have attracted people from areas where restrictions were more severe (and where the virus was circulating at more severe levels).
- Merseyside Police confirmed that they would be enforcing COVID-19 regulation breaches in line with the new rules of national lockdown.
- All agreed that the current situation is extremely serious and that all partner agencies will cooperate to ensure that lockdown restrictions are adhered to rigidly with a view to arresting the rise in the figures.
Councillor Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council and the Chair of Knowsley’s Outbreak Management Board, said: “The updates received today by the Outbreak Management Board were extremely concerning.
“We are currently seeing the highest COVID-19 infection rates in Knowsley since the start of this pandemic. The virus is widespread in our community and we know that these rates will continue to rise for some time yet.
“We cannot afford to ignore the reality. The risk to the health and wellbeing of us all is great.
“I must call upon all our residents to rigidly observe the rules of the lockdown. Lockdown must mean lockdown for us to arrest these rapidly rising cases numbers and avoid swamping our local hospitals and seeing more people die as a result.
“Please follow the rules. Stay at home as much as is possible. Work from home if you can and do not mix with anyone outside of your household or support bubble.”
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.