Barnsley Council leader says we 'cannot become complacent' as coronavirus infection rates fall

Residents in Barnsley should not become complacent about the impact of coronavirus, as figures show the infection rate in the borough appears to be falling.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 9:51 am
Updated Thursday, 9th July 2020, 9:52 am

During a meeting of the council's cabinet, Council Leader Sir Stephen Houghton CBE, said that although the rates of infection are falling, Barnsley still has a higher than average infection rate.

As of the week ending June 21, Barnsley had a weekly rate case of 54.7 cases per 100,000 residents, compared to Leicester's rate of 140, which saw the area go into a local lockdown.

Sir Stephen Houghton warned cabinet members that although there are no plans for Barnsley to enter any kind of local lockdown, if infection rates do not continue to fall, "further measures" would be taken.

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Introducing the Barnsley Covid-19 outbreak control plan, Sir Stephen said: "We had last week the false propositions that we were going to be locked down for the weekend, which was never true. The infection rates in Barnsley are above the national average so we need to be clear about that. They are coming down, but we cannot be complacent about that.

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If they don't keep coming down we will have to look at further measures whatever they are.

"We are in constant communication with Public Health England. We're constantly taking their advice and working closely together with them."

"The government has sought to change its approach to controlling the virus from the lockdown as it's been eased, into dealing with individual outbreaks and controlling those.

"The national contact testing and tracing scheme is being run by the government. The information from that is now being fed to local authorities, so we can use that information in controlling local outbreaks.

"Our role is to manage that, at a very localised level, to try and make sure that as the virus declines it doesn't spike back significantly.

"I think it is inevitable across the country, not just [in] Barnsley that there will be outbreaks from time to time, and we have seen some of that in Barnsley already in some workplaces and schools.

"The good news is that we've managed to stay on top of that. But in order the manage that, we are required to set up a local outbreak board , which is a partnership body between the council and other agencies.

"We've also got to have an outbreak control plan, so we know what we're going to do as and when outbreaks may occur.

"We have to look at how we're going to manage care homes and schools, and high risk places and venues. The big important issue will be data flows, and information flows between the centre and the locality, so we know just how many infections we've got and where they are, and therefore can deal with them appropriately.

"What we are trying to ensure in Barnsley is we've got the capacity to deal with this, and in many ways the biggest issue will also be communications, that we are constantly communicating with people about where we are in Barnsley, but making them alert to be careful.

"Those messages need to keep going out, because there's a danger as the lockdown releases, people think we're back to normal when we're not.

"Outbreaks will occur, and we need to handle them sensitively, and we don't want to stigmatise people.”

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