County Council to set up panel to drive local war on coronavirus

Essex County Council (ECC) is to set up an outbreak control board to help drive testing, contact tracing and local outbreak planning around Covid-19.

The board is expected to provide political ownership and public-facing engagement and communication for outbreak response.

The national Test and Trace service, launched on May 28, is designed to control the rate of reproduction of Covid-19 by reducing the spread of the infection.

But each upper tier local authority, in Essex’s case ECC, are expected to develop local outbreak control plans by the end of June to clarify how local government works with the national Test and Trace service, so that the whole local system is geared up to contain the virus.

As part of their local plans councils are expected to have a member-led, typically by the leader of the authority, Local Outbreak Control Board, or use some existing forum such as the Health and Wellbeing Board for this purpose.

These arrangements will be expected to provide political oversight of local delivery of the Test and Trace service, will lead the engagement with local communities and be the public face of the local response in the event of an outbreak.

Details have not been finalised by ECC but seven themes other authorities have centred on to tackle the virus are a system around planning for local outbreaks in care homes and schools, identifying and planning how to manage other high-risk places, locations and communities of interest, identifying methods for local testing to ensure a swift response that is accessible to the entire population, assessing local and regional contact tracing and infection control capability in complex settings, and the need for mutual aid.

They also look to be integrating national and local data and scenario planning from the new Joint Biosecurity Centre, supporting vulnerable people to get help to self-isolate and crucially in terms of setting oversight structures, ensuring services meet the needs of diverse communities and establishing governance structures led by existing Covid-19 health protection boards.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter