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Issue 11: 8 June 2020

Latest Updates on Salford Council's response to the COVID-19 outbreak

GM and Liverpool Mayors statement

Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester mayor held a joint emergency briefing with Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram in response to the North West's coronavirus transmission rate. It was revealed on Friday that the region's median 'R' value - the rate at which Covid is transmitted - had risen above 1. 

A number of proposals will be submitted to the Government by Mr Burnham and Mr Rotheram. They include a call for more local, up to date information on the local spread of the virus. Plus access to real time data from national test, track and trace is needed, and urgent steps to improve the effectiveness of test and trace.

Schools should be able to reopen at a time that's appropriate for their area. Mr Burnham said headteachers and teaching unions had been under pressure to open on a certain date. They believe the further re-opening of schools needs to be considered, especially in areas where the R value is rising.

On Friday 5 June, Government confirmed the R number (measuring the rate of transmission) for the UK as a whole was 0.7-0.9, unchanged from 29 May.  At the same time, regional ‘R’ numbers were confirmed. The North West’s median ‘R’ was 1.01, within a 95% range of certainty of 0.83 – 1.18. All of the UK regions had a range of certainty which includes 1; which makes the median R number unreliable in deciding whether a region is below or above 1.

The announcement on Friday has led to a number of concerns and in some cases a call for measures to ease lockdown to be halted.  Regionally, the Mayors of Greater Manchester and Merseyside have called on government to release information in a more timely way, and with earlier consultation with regional and local leaders.  They have also called for greater regional involvement in decision making on easing measures and on any discussion about local variations in lockdowns and response measures.

Locally, in Salford, we believe it is not helpful that information of this public importance is released without notice or consultation on a Friday afternoon and we support calls for greater local involvement in the government’s decision making.  Our emphasis has been really focused on working with our Director of Public Health to better understand the ‘R’ values, and even more importantly, to understand at a more granular level transmission of the virus in Salford, and to ensure that our response is proportionate and effective based on our understanding of the risk factors. 

This briefing seeks to provide a summary of the Public Health advice that has informed our decision making in Salford.

The R number – national and regional

Regional R numbers have increased everywhere – not just in the NW.  This is to be expected as government eases lockdown.  However, these R numbers have a very wide range of uncertainty.  For this reason, R numbers at regional level (and certainly at any lower level, such as city or district) must be treated with a high degree of caution.  Public Health advice is that any use of the regional median ‘R’ must also be considered alongside measures of incidence at the local level – numbers of infections, what we know about our different settings like care homes and schools, and also sadly the numbers of deaths.

The incidence of infections in the North West has not changed substantially – as illustrated in the graphs below.  However, there is now more variability in infection rates across the different populations in the North West, meaning that the level of uncertainty has increased (the shaded area in the graphs).  Whilst PHE advise the North West is experiencing a slower decline in cases, the numbers of deaths and cases does continue to reduce.

Incidence of infections in the North West and England (Source: https://mrc.bsu.cam.ac.uk/now-casting/)

In Salford

Any ‘R’ number calculated locally would be largely meaningless given the wider range of variation and therefore uncertainty.  However observations on incidence do help us to understand the virus. Alongside the national and regional R rates on 5 June, PHE also advised that local data on hospital admissions, deaths, and test and trace should be considered by each local area to interpret the local levels of transmission.

  • The rates of transmission will vary in settings – in care homes, in schools, in work places, in communities
  • Salford care homes are seeing a reducing number of both cases and deaths – implying an effective rate of transmission less than one in that setting
  • Through the end of May and continuing to latest data on 4 June, the number of beds in SRFT occupied by COVID-19 patients was on a plateau, with new admissions about 3 per day.  This also indicates there is no exponential growth of the outbreak in the community
  • Excess deaths are now back to average levels for the past five years, and Salford is experiencing on average one COVID-19 related death per day or less.

These levels are reported in the graph below – showing a plateauing across all five measures.

Comparing the numbers of cases across Greater Manchester, Salford (and Stockport) have the lowest rates of new cases in the 14 days up to 4 June in Greater Manchester, similar to the average for England.  Comparatively, Tameside, Rochdale and Bury appear to have higher rates of infection in that time period.

Based on this more detailed local intelligence, the Director of Public Health advises:

  • Salford will be one of the NW local authorities where the rate of effective transmission (the R number) is less than 1.
  • All managed settings (Schools, care homes, workplaces) have risk assessment and procedures in place to be COVID secure.
  • We have not seen sustained transmission in schools. Schools are managed settings with ‘bubbles’ in place to help manage the impact of unwell staff and children.
  • Care homes have never stepped down the use of PPE and infection control procedures – these remain in place
  • To ensure we bring the rates of transmission down, social distancing needs to continue to be followed – including in social settings between different households and in workplaces.

For schools in Salford

Salford Public Health have been working with Head Teachers to provide advice on risk assessments for all staff and individuals, including targeted advice for those that may be at risk of more severe complications from the virus.  Locally this is supported by the additional local testing arrangements at AJ Bell Stadium.  Local testing together with local contact tracing supports our ability to manage any suspected cases, and to do so quickly to prevent possible outbreaks in Salford schools.

Given the information on the numbers of cases and the rates of transmission outlined in this note, the DPH advice remains unchanged – that plans for schools carry on based on individual school risk assessments and a rapid local response to suspected cases.

Charities to benefit from support for rough sleepers during pandemic

Over 130 charities are set to benefit from £6 million of government funding to allow them to continue their work supporting rough sleepers during the pandemic. Funding allocations include £33, 283 for Emmaus Salford.

This includes providing beds for those who need it as well as the specialist physical and mental health help they need to recover from life on the streets. The funding is part of a £750 million package of government support for UK charities who may have been impacted by the pandemic.

PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATES

Coronavirus Cases

In line with the national picture, Salford continues to see a slower increase in new cases. As of Sunday 7 June, 950 people in Salford have tested positive for coronavirus (an increase of 2.15% since last Monday 1 June, 20 additional cases).

Personal protective equipment in educational settings

Guidance has been issued (01 June) on the process schools and education settings should follow to obtain supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The guidance states that schools and other education or childcare settings should not require staff, children and learners to wear face coverings. Changing habits, cleaning and hygiene are effective measures in controlling the spread of the virus. PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases, which are outlined in the guidance.

The guidance also sets out how to access PPE if it is necessary. Education, childcare and children’s social care settings and providers should use their local supply chains to obtain PPE.

If settings cannot obtain the PPE they need, they are advised to approach their council. If the council is not able to meet the PPE needs of education and childcare providers, the council may approach their nearest local resilience forum (LRF) which will allocate stock if it is available once the needs of other vital services locally have been met. If neither the council or LRF is able to respond to an education or childcare setting’s unmet urgent need for PPE, the setting will need to make their own judgement in line with their risk assessment as to whether it is safe to continue to operate. 

Currently the City Council has provided PPE to all schools, settings and childminders should a child become unwell on the premises, we will continue to monitor this and support where normal supplies cannot be sourced. 

Personal protective equipment for hospital staff and visitors

All staff in hospitals in England will be provided with surgical masks which they will be expected to wear from 15 June. All visitors and outpatients must wear face coverings at all times.

The Department of Health and Social Care has published guidance on how healthcare providers can order additional personal protective equipment (PPE) through the portal to top up their existing supplies for coronavirus in an emergency.

The PPE portal can be used by social care and primary care providers to order and receive critical coronavirus personal protective equipment (PPE). Providers which can use the service will receive an email invitation to register.

KEY SERVICE UPDATES

A full list of information about council services and access by the public can be found at council services information.

Spirit of Salford network

As of 5 June, the hotline has received over 9,800 telephone calls, along with 1,300 requests for support from the website.

VCSE SECTOR UPDATES

Funding for new coalition of vulnerable children’s charities

A funding package of more than £7 million was announced on Friday as part of a Department for Education programme. A coalition of charities will provide targeted help through the launch of the See, Hear, Respond service for vulnerable children, young people and their families affected by the virus and the measures put in place to stop its spread.

The coalition, led by Barnardo’s, will work alongside local authorities, schools and colleges, police forces, healthcare professionals and other vital services involved in protecting these children.

The funding is provided as part of the £750 million package of support committed to charities by the Chancellor.

GOVERNMENT

Funding for frontline domestic abuse charities

The Homelessness Minister has announced that over 100 successful charity bids across England will receive a share of £8.1 million government funding to continue to provide life-saving services during the current crisis.

The funding comes from £10 million that has been made available to domestic abuse charities to support them during the coronavirus pandemic. A second bidding round opened on Fri 5 June in order to allocate the rest of the funding. Applications will be processed on a rolling ‘first come, first served’ basis.

Face coverings to become mandatory on public transport

The Transport Secretary announced last week that it will be mandatory for passengers to wear face coverings when using public transport in England from 15 June.

The changes will be made under legislation such as the National Rail Conditions of Travel and Public Service Vehicle Regulations for buses. Operators will be able to refuse travel or issue penalty fines for those who fail to wear a face covering. British Transport Police will also support the implementation of these changes.

Ban on evictions extended

Renters across England and Wales will receive greater protection after the government extended the suspension of new evictions until 23 August.

The extension announced by the Housing Secretary today (5 June 2020) takes the moratorium on evictions to a total of 5 months to ensure that renters continue to have certainty and security.

Ministers are also working with the judiciary, legal representatives and the advice sector on arrangements, including new rules, which will mean that courts are better able to address the need for appropriate protection of all parties, including those shielding from coronavirus.

Places of worship to re-open for individual prayer

From Monday 15 June places of worship will be permitted to open for individual prayer in line with social distancing guidelines.

New guidance will be published shortly to ensure the limited re-opening of places of worship can be done safely and in line with social distancing guidelines.

CELEBRATIONS

Children returning to school

This week children in some year groups have returned to school, our Headteachers across the city, supported by their teachers and support staff, governors, Salford’s Director of Public Health and local authority colleagues have been working hard to undertake and update risk-assessments and develop their school re-opening plans.

One of our head teachers prepared a video for his year 6 children who were returning to school. Here he is dressed as a sergeant major giving his pupils the latest instructions for their return, his story was also in the local press. Have a look at it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Twy8P44mnJQ&app=desktop.

Delivering essential services in our city

As a result of the need to maintain social distancing, Salford crematoria have had to restrict the number of mourners in attendance at chapels to just 10. To enable a wider number of family members to observe funeral services a digital solution has been introduced with a web casting facility now available at Agecroft Crematoria. A web link is provided to the immediate family member of the person who has passed away to share with their family members and they simply log in at the time of the service from home and are able to view the service.

This is being offered as a free service for the foreseeable future, whilst there are restrictions on mourners. A big thank you to a private company who have enabled this to happen by providing free of charge piping and wiring to enable a 500 metres trench to be dug to provide energy from the office to the crematoria. Thanks also to bereavement and grounds maintenance staff for making this happen. We are now looking at doing the same for Peel Green Crematoria.