‘Take responsibility’ says health boss after Sheffield put on coronavirus watchlist

Everyone in Sheffield must play their part in the fight against coronavirus, the city’s director of Public Health has said.

Saturday, 12th September 2020, 4:57 pm
Updated Saturday, 12th September 2020, 4:58 pm

Greg Fell’s comments come after Sheffield was placed on the Government’s coronavirus watchlist as an ‘area of concern’ on Friday, 11 September.

The number of positive cases has been rising nationally, in particular in Yorkshire, where there were 9,453 confirmed cases between 29 June and 8 September. The North West was the only region in England which recorded more positive cases during this period.

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Greg Fell, director of Public Health at Sheffield City Council.

Mr Fell admitted Friday’s news was therefore no surprise.

He said: “I’m worried, I think every director of Public Health is worried. It wasn’t unexpected, it had been coming for a while. It’s provided a useful opportunity to refocus and intensify our efforts.

"We’re seeking to avoid harm to people – it’s a dangerous virus, as we have seen – and an enforced lockdown. That causes economic and social harm.”

He added: “It will require all of us, in every part of the city, to work with that in mind.”

Sheffield is currently at the first of three ‘stages’ for areas with high infection rates. If things worsen, the city could get enhanced support from the Government or, later, a national intervention like Greater Manchester.

Sheffield was identified as needing enhanced support in July but managed to avoid tighter restrictions due to ‘aggressive intervention’ from authorities and partner agencies. Now, Mr Fell is planning a new strategy to manage the latest rise.

That will include improving the number of people in Sheffield contacted by the NHS Track and Trace service, which “could be better”. Currently, 75 per cent of contacts in the city are traced, on average. If necessary, Public Health workers will knock on doors, Mr Fell said. He also wants to improve the support package for those who may find it hard to self-isolate after research showed 80 per cent of those asked to don’t.

Mr Fell said: “Whether or not we get escalated further is partially up to what the city does. I can’t do it by myself, it’s a whole city effort.

"I would be foolish to say we can make it go away. What we can do it dampen the rise with the curve as much as possible.”

Sheffield is unlikely to be taken off ‘the naughty step’ any time soon to avoid giving the suggestion “it’s all over now,” he added.

The arrival of tens of thousands of students in the city also adds to the level of risk.

"Both universities have done a huge amount to prepare in terms of campus life [...] the concern is what happens off campus,” added Mr Fell.

He also said he shares the frustration of those who are struggling to book a test in Sheffield, but expects the issue to be temporary for two to three weeks.

Mr Fell said: “There’s no two ways about it, it’s a pain. If it was me I would be really narked. My advice is keep trying.”