1) The Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, Mrs Bell, gave an update on the following issues:-
· Kent Community Foundation Knock and Check Campaign
It was reported that KCC was supporting the winter Kent Community Foundation Knock and Check Campaign, which was asking residents to help the most vulnerable during winter months. This tied in with the select committee on social isolation which had made recommendations including raising awareness of social isolation and loneliness. The details of the campaign were available at: KentCF.org.uk/knockandcheck
· New App Aid Launched for Alcohol Awareness Week (16-20 Nov)
It was reported that it was Alcohol Awareness Week (16-20 November 2020) and an app had been launched to help residents who wanted to reduce their alcohol intake. Around 300,000 people in Kent were reported to be drinking more than the recommended safe limits and experts had raised concerns around the impact of lockdown on drinking.
· Flu Jab Vaccinations
It was reported that the flu vaccination programme was to be expanded and Kent residents were encouraged to get flu vaccines. It was reported that flu kills, on average, 11,000 people in England each year. New research suggested that people infected with both Covid-19 and flu were more at risk of severe illness and death. The full list of people to be called for a free vaccination was available on the NHS website.
· Covid-19 Community Champions
A joint project with KCC, Medway Council and NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group was encouraging residents to sign up to become Covid-19 Community Champions. The Champions would share the latest government advice with their local communities and advise other on how to safe in the pandemic. The Champions would receive regular updates on the latest information and advice.
2) The Director of Public Health, Mr Scott-Clark and Ms Duggal, Deputy Director of Public Health, gave an update on the response to Covid-19, including the following:-
Across the county there had been an upward trend in cases of Covid-19. There were concerns about Thanet and Swale districts. Work was being undertaken with partners to understand these trends. The Health and Care Cell plugged into strategic command, working with districts, officer and leaders and cabinets of districts. Briefings had been held with all districts or were planned across the county. Work was being done across the Kent border with Bexley, Dartford to align work and coordinate.
A deep dive was being undertaken with Public Health England colleagues both regionally and nationally for Swale and Thanet districts.
The increase in cases had started in the 16-24, younger cohort and then in the working age population, then cases in the older populations had started to increase. This was of concern due to older people experiencing more severe symptoms.
• Care Homes and enhanced support to the national contact system locally.
Ms Duggal reported that the pattern had changed with Covid-19 cases in care homes. During the first wave of the pandemic, there was increased risk of outbreaks in larger care homes. However, in the second wave, most care homes that had experience outbreaks had between 20 to 49 residents. Measures had been put into place to support care homes with issues that had been identified. Weekly meetings were taking place with care providers and commissioning to address public health issues. There was a care home cell for escalation of any issues.
There had been good liaison between KCC, Public Health England and the Infection Control teams.
· Test and Trace
Test and Trace was a local partnership of KCC and Kent’s district councils. Calls handlers were receiving training and would contact people that the national system had not been able to trace. Call handlers would give advice about self-isolation and offer assistance. Where someone was not able to be contacted by telephone, district councils would assist by knocking on doors.
Public Health England agreement was required to begin work on the system and it was anticipated that the system would go live on 26 November 2020.
All vaccinations that were in the ‘pipeline’ were still to go through the licensing process. Planning was being undertaken for how vaccinations would be rolled out and advice had been sought about the priority order of vaccinations. It was anticipated that one of the earliest priority groups would be staff and residents within care homes. Work was being undertaken alongside the NHS and through the local resilience forum around the logistics required to roll out the vaccinations.
· EU Transition
Work was being undertaken with the Emergency Planning Team and others to ensure the transition is conducted in a Covid-19 secure and safe manner, looking at facilities on truck stop sites and in particular at the sites in Manston and near Ashford.
· Asymptomatic Testing
It was being considered how to target testing to areas with higher infection rates and rolling out testing would be a challenging logistical exercise. Military assistance had been used in other parts of the country but it was not anticipated that the army would be able to provide this assistance in Kent.
The lateral flow tests which would be used for asymptomatic testing gave much faster results in around 30 minutes.
· Easing of lockdown
There had been high numbers of infections in Kent and 2 districts were on the national ‘watchlist’. There had been discussion about what the tier system would look like coming out of lockdown for Kent and changes to the tier system were anticipated.
3) In response to questions it was noted:
o Concerns were raised about agency care workers with multiple places of work. Agency care workers in homes received infection control advice and asymptomatic testing was going to be introduced for domiciliary care workers.
o There had been publicity around Covid cases in custodial settings on the Isle of Sheppey but it was highlighted that there had been outbreaks in 2 large care homes. However, the majority of cases were in private residences.
o Concerns were raised around Covid-19 cases in deprived areas in the county and challenges around self-isolation.
o School closures were not as a result of instructions from KCC. Individual schools had to make business decisions but were supported to stay open where possible.
o Guidance and enforcement measures were received from central government.