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Knowsley Outbreak Management Board Update: 21 January

by Gemma Melling


Knowsley’s latest Outbreak Management Board meeting took place on Thursday 21 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:

  • In the week preceding the Board’s meeting, levels of COVID-19 infections in Knowsley had started to decline.
  • The rate of this decline was significantly slower than the rate at which cases had increased in the weeks following Christmas. Knowsley continues to experience some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country.
  • Concern was raised that national messaging had suggested that lockdown could be released in February 2021. These national Government messages were raising expectations within local communities that the relaxation of rules could come within weeks – this was felt to be very unlikely given the levels of infection still being seen in Knowsley and the amount of time it would take at the current rate of reduction for cases to fall to an acceptable level.
  • This was particularly of concern as the Board noted that the current lockdown was clearly not as restrictive as previous lockdowns, and that many Knowsley residents were still having to leave home to go to work.
  • The number of people in Knowsley testing positive for COVID-19 was 1,103.7 per 100,000 population (as at 16 January 2021). This reflected a reduction compared to the figures reported to the Board in the previous week which were 1,461 per 100,000 population (as at 8 January 2021).
  • Indications were that case levels in the borough had peaked around 8 January 2021 – it was noted by all that these initial decreases do not in any way mean that the crisis is over.
  • Case levels were indeed still alarmingly high and, in summary, are not expected to decrease quickly.
  • Case levels within the over 60s population in particular are “levelling off” but still not reducing at present – this is a major concern given that people in this category are more likely to develop severe illness.
  • Hospital admissions continue to increase across Merseyside and local hospitals are coming under severe pressure in terms of capacity.
  • Good progress continues to be made in rolling out the vaccination programme to eligible groups.
  • t was confirmed that NHS data on current uptake of the vaccine is not being made available for publication – all parties confirmed this should be raised as an issued with NHS England, as it was important that there was public transparency on this point.
  • Some queries were raised with regard to plans for vaccinating “housebound” residents and potential timescales.
  • The Board asked for Knowsley Clinical Commissioning Group to be invited to the next meeting to provide an update on the vaccination programme.
  • 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, 51,024 tests have been carried out and 1,509 people in Knowsley have been identified as having COVID-19 without symptoms. Assuming that those people then self-isolated as required, the facilities had “caught and killed” more than 1,500 cases of COVID-19 and prevented thousands of local people from becoming infected.
  • 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, with such high prevalence of the virus in the community, outbreaks are a likely consequence.  The Board was updated on the advice and support provided in the case of outbreaks and the regular ongoing monitoring arrangements.
  • Merseyside Police updated on joint enforcement work ongoing in the Borough alongside the council and other partner agencies. This week, action had included issuing fines to people not wearing face coverings when required and also to people breaching household mixing rules, as well as visits to supermarkets across the borough.

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.