Lewisham approves plan to manage local outbreaks of coronavirus

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

Lewisham’s mayor and cabinet has approved a plan to manage outbreaks and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Government has asked each council to develop a local outbreak control plan to prevent and control Covid-19 and have measures in place to deal with a potential outbreak.

Led by Lewisham’s director of public health, Dr Catherine Mbema, the borough’s plan focuses on seven main themes – planning for local outbreaks in care homes and schools, identifying and planning how to manage high-risk places and communities, local testing capacity, contact tracing, data integration, supporting vulnerable people, and establishing local governance boards.

The council plans to provide guidance for schools on PPE, infection and control, and signposting for testing and tracing, as well as holding meetings for headteachers every two weeks to give public health advice.

For care homes, the council plans to ensure access to an emergency supply of PPE, testing, and infection prevention and control training, as well as holding fortnightly public health advice meetings for managers, while giving tailored support depending on the needs of the facility.

The council will also provide guidance for those in homeless shelters and supported accommodation, and hold infection, prevention and control sessions for “complex community settings”, such as places of worship and Goldsmiths University.

It will also be “proactively tailoring messaging and engaging communities around infection control, social distancing, testing and contact tracing”, focusing on key vulnerable groups such as the young and elderly, people suffering homelessness, Gypsy and Traveller communities, and Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities.

If residents are advised to self-isolate, they will be asked if they consider themselves vulnerable, and if so will be directed to the council’s helpline number for support.

“The Lewisham Community Hub is currently providing food, befriending, practical assistance and signposting to additional sources of support for those affected by Covid-19.

“We will utilise this model to manage the provision of support to those who identify as vulnerable due to being asked to self-isolate as part of the National Test and Trace programme,” according to the report.

The council plans to use “reliable, informative and timely data to help understand the local spread of Covid-19 and to identify any communities or settings that are affected,” while a virtual Lewisham Covid-19 data team has been set up.

An ‘incident management team’, made up of a variety of different leads, including public health, incident response, communications, emergency planning, data, and public health, will be mobilised to respond to outbreaks depending on their scale.

“Its role will be to coordinate the management of the incident and associated communications and provide support for vulnerable people,” according to the report.

The council also aims to make sure people can test for the coronavirus quickly where national testing routes, which will be mostly depended on, are not available.

“We will use local intelligence to identify sites for deployment of mobile testing units (MTU) to enable us to direct national capacity to high risk areas,” according to the report.

The council will also look at options to deliver tests to isolated or vulnerable people.

Cllr Chris Best, deputy mayor and cabinet member for health and adult social care, presented the report and said the plan is “live” as the situation was “subject to change”.

“We are also learning from areas like Leicester, so in line with that we will be light on our feet,” she said.

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