Council to maintain Covid defence measures until at least April 2022

Covid defence measures will remain in place at Staffordshire County Council until at least spring 2022, it has been revealed.

Staffordshire Place - Staffordshire County Council's Stafford headquarters
Staffordshire Place - Staffordshire County Council's Stafford headquarters

Cases of coronavirus have been rising both locally and nationally in recent weeks, including in Leek where door to door testing of 10,000 residents is taking place this week in a bid to control the spread of the more infections Delta variant.

This week has also seen the announcement that the long-awaited next stage in easing of national lockdown restrictions has been put back from June 21 to July 19 at the earliest.

Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet members were given an update at their meeting on Wednesday.

Councillor Johnny McMahon, cabinet support member for public health and integrated care, said: “The opening up fully of the economy has been delayed, which clearly is a disappointment to many, but one only has to look at what is happening in Leek to see that this virus is still very much with us. In the week up to 7th June the rate per 100,000 per week moved from 42 to 110 in the area, which shows the pace this virus can advance.

“But we are on top of it. North Staffordshire CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), I have been advised, is the best in the country in terms of vaccinating those over the age of 40 – almost 80 per cent of those over the age of 40 in the Moorlands have had both doses.

“Our Covid-19 defences are going to remain in place in the county until April of next year at the earliest. That’s simply because this will be endemic in our communities

“I want to thank the people of Leek and Cheddleton for doing a tremendous job in terms of working with us to beat this virus. The numbers of those who have offered to be tested was north of 10,000 by the beginning of this week and I think that’s really helpful.”

Councillor Ian Parry, cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “My thoughts are about the future, and we are hearing this week from Government scientists that we are going to learn to live with this virus forever effectively.

“What infrastructure might we need to put in place for things like booster jabs and other care needs in order to live with this in the future?”

Councillor McMahon responded: “If you look at the history of pandemics it is the case that the viruses don’t go away but they become endemic in our communities. We will see outbreaks of the virus over the coming months and possibly years, where we have to act quickly as we are doing at the moment.

“We’ve kept in place the county council infrastructures to deal with this until April next year – that may well have to be extended. It’s a right and proper thing that remains in place and can be stood up and we can act swiftly. It’s speed that really helps us get on top of this.

“The history of pandemics is although the virus remains in the community it becomes less virulent and the illness becomes less over time. But that timescale we have no idea of, so the possibility of having a coronavirus jab every autumn the way one has a flu jab, may well be a feature in the future.

“It won’t go away, we just have to protect ourselves against it.”

A cabinet report said that Covid defences set to be maintained by the county council over the coming months include testing, contact tracing and isolation of cases and close contacts, as well as managing outbreaks and supporting the most vulnerable.

Council leader Alan White said: “You know things like this are enduring in nature and it is resilience that is required to keep going, even if you think you are over it.”

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