Health chief calls for half term lockdown as COVID cases climb in Southend

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An autumn “firebreak” would help stem the rise of COVID-19 cases in Southend, the director of public health has insisted.

Speaking at Southend’s health and wellbeing board meeting on Wednesday, Krishna Ramkhelawon warned the number of positive tests had risen since children returned to the classroom.

The town is now averaging 260 to 280 cases per 100,000, up from an average of 200 to 220 during the summer holidays.

A “firebreak”, essentially a short lockdown, could include an extension of the school half-term holiday from one to two weeks.

The public health boss is keen to avoid a full lockdown, raising concerns over the impact on residents and businesses.

Mr Ramkhelawon said: “Rates in our community remain very high.

“[It’s] expected because schools have returned and there was a lot of testing for schools who would have picked up a few more cases but we are waiting for some guidance nationally on what is the predicted modelling that is going to be utilised given that the vaccination programme has had a significant positive impact on hospitalisation and prevention in people potentially transmitting the virus as well.

“ For now it’s difficult to say whether that is a real concern or not but we will remain vigilant and continue our work. ”

Mr Ramkhelawon raised concerns that a lack of action throughout the autumn could lead to further restrictions later in the year.

Adding that lessons must be learned from last year, when restrictions were put in place during last winter and re-introduced over Christmas.

He added: “We are not sure whether there will be a mini-lockdown as a firebreak.

“Whether that will be something that is brought in I do not know but a lesson learned from last year, the lack of action during October term, especially when we have Halloween and all these events going on, we saw a significant increase in rates which became uncontrollable and left us with no choice but to into four weeks lockdown which had a minimal impact.

“Should there be any need for a firebreak then I hope it’s going to be short and it’s going to be timely so that we can effectively manage without needing to go into a lockdown because it’s the last thing we want.”


Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter