[To receive an update on the current COVID-19 situation.]
Dr Kate Warren, Consultant in Public Health delivered the COVID-19 Situation Update with supporting presentation.
In terms of cases, a graph illustrated the cases within Wolverhampton as having reduced significantly since the Winter peak, a reduction which was attributed to effects of the lockdown restrictions.
The case rate by age continued to be the most prevalent in working age adults but had decreased in all age groups.
The City of Wolverhampton was reported as having one of the lowest COVID case rates in the West Midlands area.
As in previous reports, it was noted that there were no consistent geographical hotspots within the City. Clarification was sought around the ’Suppressed Areas’ displayed on the map. It was confirmed that this described areas where case rate numbers were so low that individuals may be identified from the data and it was therefore suppressed on the grounds of retaining patient confidentiality.
It was reported that there was still a significant number of COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds and 15 people in ICU (The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust), but the numbers were falling.
In terms of mortality, the Winter peak had resulted in a peak of deaths where COVID was recorded as a contributing cause on the death certificate. A significant number of deaths occurred in people over the age of 60 and it was noted that this was why age was such a dominant factor in the priority order of the vaccination programme strategy.
It was highlighted that the vaccination programme had gained considerable pace and a good take-up had been achieved so far. Discrepancies were being monitored and partnership working had ensured there were plans in place to mitigate these.
It was reported that large volumes of cases in younger age groups had resulted in many younger people needing hospital care and that these groups remained largely unvaccinated. It was underlined that although the vaccination programme had made positive progress, there were many people still susceptible to COVID-19 and a rise in transmission would increase their risk of being admitted to hospital.
A graph depicted NHS Activity modelling of projected hospital occupancy should the restriction be lifted over a period of three, six or nine months. This illustrated the likelihood of increased transmission should restrictions be lifted too early.
It was queried what communities could do to support the Authority and the messages relayed that COVID was still a risk despite the progress made. It was acknowledged that there was already a meaningful contribution made by community groups to support the partnership effort therefore thanks were offered and the message was simply to continue the great work.
In response to a query around any major incidents arising, there had been none reported in educational settings. It was noted that attendance in primary schools had been 96% as of 9 March 2021, although attendance in secondary schools were more difficult to quantify as there was a staggered return underway. Staff and students had been undertaking testing.
Dr Kate Warren had no specific incidents to report either. It was noted that there would be a more proactive approach to tracking and testing therefore an increase may be seen in case rates although this would not necessarily mean an increase in transmission. Test result data would be cross-referenced with infection survey results for this reason to ensure a clearer picture.
A query was raised around whether there were local plans in place for a third peak should it arise. Assurances were given that the Authority and partners were continually preparing for all eventualities to ensure a rapid response. Continued delivery of the vaccine programme and embedding frequent testing into everyday life were included in these preparations.
Schools and education settings were commended for their organisation and rolling out of testing. It was noted that, although it was far removed from the previous way of life, testing was one of the key components towards returning to some semblance of normality.
That the COVID-19 Situation Update be noted.