Statement from Dr Bruce Laurence B&NES director of Public Health

We are now seeing a significant increase in cases locally and that increase mirrors what is happening regionally and nationally. We are now at a level of about 50 cases per 100,000 population per week.

That is still, as has always been the case, less than half the national average. One difference now though is that we are towards the upper end of South West regional local authorities, but our exact position changes on a daily basis.

The information that we get is very complex and it can be difficult to get a clear picture of what is going on, but there are a few things that give some idea of what is happening locally:

  • In the wider community the increase in cases is actually quite small. We have very few in children or those above 50, and the situation in our care homes where we have many vulnerable people is well controlled, with just a scattering of cases and no big outbreaks.
  • Similarly, in schools there have been cases, but in the great majority these have all been controlled without significant spread.
  • It’s a similar picture in workplaces where we have not had big outbreaks as have been seen elsewhere.
  • As cases are still few in vulnerable groups, we have seen very few hospital admissions and no Covid-related deaths for a long time.
  • In the working age population, particularly those aged 18-40, we are seeing more of the increase in cases, as these are folk who have front line jobs, live in more crowded accommodation and go out more, so that is to be expected and is seen throughout the country.
  • We are seeing cases in our further and higher education establishments including universities. Compared to other universities, ours are doing well to prevent and control cases, but because the overall number of students is high in Bath compared to the whole population of B&NES, which is small for an upper tier authority, these cases, while not great in number, do add considerably to our rate. However, students are taking their isolation responsibilities very seriously and I believe the risk is being well managed.

Now, having said all that, and emphasising that we are in a relatively good position to keep safe here, total societal risk is increasing and everyone needs to think about their role in preventing transmission, wherever and whoever they are.

So, I ask you to ask yourself, whenever you are mixing with others or going out:

  • Is this necessary?
  • Is this safe?
  • Is the benefit worth the risk to me and to others?

Answer those questions honestly and thoughtfully, based on a general understanding of the current situation, and you will find you can still be doing those things that are really important to your wellbeing, but will not taking unnecessary risks for little benefit.

If you avoid seeing more people than you need to, avoid crowded places that you don’t have to visit, and continue to apply good rules of social distancing and protection wherever you go, we will keep case numbers as low as possible and get through this as well as we can.

Notes to editors:

To control the spread of coronavirus in B&NES the council:

  • Works with Public Health England, health colleagues and individual settings to identify cases and clusters and put practical measures in place.
  • Works very closely with the universities, who have got good measures in place, to look after their student and to reassure wider community
  • Is training people to be able to contact trace to support PHE
  • Through our Compassionate Communities Hub is gearing up to manage any increase in demand over winter
  • Is supporting care providers and closely monitoring all our care homes particularly around PPE and advice
  • Is working with schools, providing public health advice and guidance when cases arise
  • Successfully contained one spike of 20 to 30 cases a few weeks ago in the Midsomer Norton area which was traced to a pub and a social group and was successfully contained
  • Through its Environmental Health Officers regularly tours of the city and town centres to monitor and intervene where necessary
  • From the very start of the pandemic the public health team have manned an inbox to take and respond immediately to questions from the public, businesses and any other institutions and so far has given almost 1500 detailed answers
  • Is vetting any events planned in Bath and North East Somerset
  • Has worked with partners to secure mobile testing units and the new walk-through local testing site in Bath
  • Is closely monitoring business continuity arrangements to make sure services can cope with combined winter and Covid pressures.
  • Is consistently sharing national and local public health messages across its communications platforms
  • Has worked with business to open the city and towns safely
  • Has put in measures in the city centre and high streets to help social distancing