The latest on coronavirus

The coronavirus infection rate continues to drop across Staffordshire, which is encouraging. But as Dr Richard Harling explained to me, isolated outbreaks have a disproportionate effect on statistics the lower the overall infection level. With 825 incidents currently open and being tracked, we are focusing our Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) on the 25 high risk hotspots, where we can have the maximum effect. You will hopefully have seen the successful deployment to Keele University to help their students return home safely.  

In the past few weeks, I’ve shared my thoughts on the continued improvement of our local Test and Trace programme, from how we use data to target local hotspots right through to support and enforcement where people test positive. We now have confirmation that Staffordshire has been selected for the Government’s Community Testing Programme which will see us prioritised within the supply chain for rapid tests and given assistance to develop our programme further. We have recruited, trained, and deployed 63 new rapid testers so far with another 27 in training; it’s a remarkable achievement and we will use the opportunity to the fullest extent that we can.  

The other major activity in the Covid response this week is the start of the Vaccination Programme, and I can certainly understand Matt Hancock’s emotion on camera when he was being interviewed. This is, almost certainly, our ticket out of this emergency, and will be the most important thing that we do in the next six months. We are working with the NHS to support the programme. At the moment, the focus is on the limited supply of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires a carefully managed “pull” supply chain. We are preparing for the greater supply of the easier to handle Oxford vaccine, among others, which will allow a “push” supply chain focused on maximising delivery through trusted places like Staffordshire GP surgeries and pharmacies. 

I will finish this week with something I found uplifting when I was walking in the dark on Friday morning to collect my newspaper.  A minibus taxi was collecting a boy in a wheelchair to take him to school.  Nothing exceptional at all in that observation, but the joy on the boy’s face at going to school, laughing and clapping, along with the happiness on his mother’s and the taxi driver’s faces, made my morning.  We arrange all of those services in Staffordshire County Council, and, while we focus on outcomes and budgets, it’s sometimes worth reminding ourselves why we’re doing this.  I hope you have a good week.    

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