How will the county recover from COVID-19 over the summer?

Jim McManus

Herts County Council's Public Health chief Jim McManus. - Credit: Herts County Council

The director of public health for Hertfordshire has said “we are not out of the woods yet” with coronavirus, but has set out a vision for recovery.

Jim McManus presented an update on the county’s COVID-19 response at the Public Health and Prevention Cabinet Panel on February 11.

Mr McManus said that the positivity rate of the virus is still too high. On February 10 it was around eight per cent. This means one in 11 people are still testing positive and therefore the virus is still circulating without showing symptoms. The aim is for the rate to be below five per cent.

He said: “There is no doubt that the lockdown is having a beneficial impact but at the same time we need people to continue self-isolating, and keep on with measures because deaths have not plummeted and reduced.

“Sadly we’re still seeing people dying. Sadly our hospitals are very busy and there will be a lag between cases coming down and deaths.

“And as we are seeing more variants with greater transmissibility, it’s more important that we keep going with prevention.

“Our epidemiology suggests that we’re moving out of a massive wave. We are not out of the woods yet. It could easily turn if we don’t take the measures we need to.

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“Our vision is the Health Protection Board creates the epidemiological conditions as much as possible for Hertfordshire to exit lockdown and stay out of lockdown, so that by summer 2021 we can begin the journey through recovery.

“And that means we need to articulate how for example we get schools to operate safely, and that we have sustainably low transmission rates. We may not get zero COVID, we’ll be living with COVID for a while. But we should aim to get COVID as low as possible in its circulation for a prolonged period of time.”

The county council ran a pilot programme which supports those workers who can’t afford to self isolate. 173 people took up the service with only five of those needing any kind of enforcement measure.

The report stated that a major programme of engagement and support, especially with community champions and frontline social care staff and Black, Asian and multi-ethnic communities, is under way to encourage vaccine take up.

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