(Andrew Scott-Clark, Director of Public Health and Jo Allen, Communications Partner, were in attendance for this item)
(1) Mr Scott-Clark reported a steady upswing in cases of Covid-19 since 20 September in Kent. The rate had been relatively low in Kent until that time and it was thought that Kent was around 4 weeks behind the average rate for England and therefore, it was felt that the second lockdown would reduce social contact, which was felt to be driving the pandemic. The national data up to 2 November 2020, showed a differential pattern across Kent, with a large upswing in Thanet and Swale districts.
In September and early October, the statistics for some boroughs had been affected by students who had tested positive for Covid-19 and then these cases had been assigned back to students’ home GP surgeries. Cases were increasing in the working population but there were concerns regarding protecting the older population. There had been greater upswings in cases in the older population in Swale, Gravesham and Dartford.
Work was being done by Public Health to manage outbreaks in schools, care settings and workplaces, including some of the county’s hospital trusts. It was reported that Medway NHS Foundation Trust had experienced some issues over the previous weekend and other Trusts had seen an upswing but so far, it had not impacted on their functioning.
The number of cases in Kent was comparable to other areas in the south east and there were fewer cases in Kent than other areas in England like Leicester or parts of Wales.
Work was being done with Public Health England and NHS to manage outbreaks in vulnerable settings as well as work with other partners around enforcement of restrictions.
Developing the local “Test and Trace” system had some initial issues, but these had been resolved and the next step was to get onto the national system. KCC was working with Department of Health and Social Care around coming out of lockdown and making sure testing and systems were in place going forward.
Congratulations were given to the Communications Team who had worked hard with district and NHS partners to ensure joined up communications messages.
(2) Ms Allen reported that the “Protect Kent and Medway” campaign had localised national messages and was developed with Medway Council, the NHS, district and borough councils. It also had given Public Health colleagues a brand through which they could talk to the public.
As part of the campaign, a website section had been created which had over 40,000 page views as the public were looking for trusted information and advice, as well as looking for service updates and numbers of cases on the website.
Social media posts had been used to get messages out to target audiences. The public were not only accessing these posts but were re-sharing them. There was a lot of engagement with the social media posts and the public wanted to have conversations about what was happening in their local areas. The key messages around the pandemic had changed and the media had played an important part in sharing messages.
Campaign messages were adapted for key audiences such as younger people, black and ethnic minority communities and families with young children. Messages were also adapted for key events in the year. Materials were provided in toolkits for services to get message out ‘offline’ and so local knowledge can be used to get messages out.
The focus had moved to supporting the central government messages for the second lockdown but the work around tiers in different areas and ‘Protect Kent and Medway’ was continuing.
In response to the presentations, the following points were noted:
· The situation in regard to numbers of cases of Covid-19 was evolving and moving quite sharply. It was noted that fluctuations locally had been affected by outbreaks in institutional settings or clusters of people in residential settings but moving forward, other factors such as people socialising would impact figures. It was hoped during the second lockdown, areas of work like ‘Test and Trace’ could be brought forward.
· Thanks were given to Mr Scott-Clark and his team. It was recognised that they had worked tirelessly since the start of the pandemic. Thanks were also given to Communications for their efforts.