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Suffolk public health bosses to request national Covid-19 support

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Public Health chiefs in Suffolk are set to call in national support teams to aid Covid-19 efforts around vaccinations, outbreaks and communications.

The county is requesting that it becomes an Enhanced Response Area – a five-week period where additional government teams, support and resources are used to clampdown on Covid cases, as well as address vaccination take-up problems.

That decision must be made by the UK Health Security Agency and Number 10, with more details expected over the next few days.

Endeavour House. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Endeavour House. Picture: Suffolk County Council

However, early details have indicated that support could include a fast-tracking of issues to Government, enhanced measures in schools, national teams supporting local outbreak teams with surge testing, additional local volunteers being recruited, door-knocking and other logistics support for areas of lower-vaccine take-up, and extra funding and resources for messaging campaigns.

Suffolk’s public sector chiefs gave their backing at an emergency meeting of the county’s local outbreak engagement board on Wednesday morning.

Public Health Suffolk director Stuart Keeble said: “We have had higher rates, we have got concerns around vaccine update – particularly lower rates in Ipswich, we have been experiencing significant outbreaks in schools.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: Suffolk County Council
Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: Suffolk County Council

“We are all a bit fatigued by the last couple of years around the messaging and everything that is happening, and we need to find a way of cutting through some of that and focusing on what we need to do as a population in Suffolk over the winter to get us through and get us where we need to.

“To be clear, the discussions we are having with an enhanced response area doesn’t mean there will be additional restrictions on people’s movements or actions, it is not about tiering or anything like that.

“It has been a conversation about what other support we can pull down on to help us manage the rates locally and to support the health and social care system through what is currently, and will continue to be, a very challenging time.

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks is leading some key members of his group.
Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks is leading some key members of his group.

“It’s welcome our rates have plateaued or are starting to fall in some areas, but our view is that we need to chase the rates back down again to put us in the best possible position for the winter.”

The current case rate in Suffolk is 536.8 per 100,000 – above the England average of 487.4 and the East of England average of 522.7.

Last week, Ipswich had seen the highest levels in the country at 854.5 cases per 100,000, which has now dropped to 759.7, putting it 25th nationally currently.

Public Health Suffolk said the situation remained a challenge however, urging people to be responsible and maintain measures such as wearing face masks in shops and regular hand washing.

Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council leader, said: “Throughout the pandemic, Suffolk has been effective at keeping our COVID rates low compared to other parts of the country. This is because we have worked hard and been proactive at every stage.

“The situation facing Suffolk now calls for the same forward-thinking and preventative work to protect residents, businesses and our way of life.

“As we learn to live with COVID-19, it will be actions such as this that prevent COVID from having an even worse impact and, ultimately, holding back our recovery.”

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