Going South (West) at a rate of knots

It is barely a working week since schools were told they could go back. Garden centres and car showrooms are open. And today Somerset County Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group for Somerset confirmed that the Calculation of the R rate for the South West is already back at one.

This is the tipping point for infections. Anything above one and the number of infections grows exponentially. The idea of allowing parts of the economy to open was on the basis that the R rate was substantially below one. In other words the number of infections was contracting rather than expanding.

The admission that the rate is now at the tipping point raises serious questions about why the decision was taken to allow school children back on 1st June. For now this is a question for another time.

Everyone is making the best of a bad job. Louise Woolway, Deputy Director of Public Health said the increase highlights the importance of following all government guidelines. We have to cut the spread of the virus and to protect the NHS: “Although Somerset continues to have low overall numbers of positive coronavirus cases compared to other parts of the country, this is a stark reminder that the virus is still active in our local communities and has not gone away,

Somerset County Council’s Director of Children’s Services Julian Wooster explained that advice to school head teachers was constantly reviewed. He thanked them for their support. “Heads, teachers and other education staff have worked hard over the past couple of months to keep children safe and now to expand lessons in primary schools. We are keeping a very watchful eye on all the data. This new transmission rate figure is just one part of the picture here in Somerset but an important one and none of us can afford to relax and ignore the guidelines.”

Commenting on the return of the R level to one, Professor Debra Lapthorne, Regional Director of PHE explained “The timing of the initial wave of infection was very different in each region, and consequently there will be some regional variation in R even now.” It may be encouraging to see that the number of infections and deaths has been mercifully low in the region. But that could change if the R level starts to rise above 1.

In the meantime the inadequacy of the test and trace system is a concern. Especially as even Dido Harding accepts will not be functional until the end of June.

Gideon Amos, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Taunton Deane said: “Reports today that the southwest’s R rate is already at 1 and rising make clear our community is vulnerable to a peak occurring here now – later than the rest of the country. Given this risk and confusion around the Government’s messaging and guidance on social distancing it’s not surprising that over 7% of our region’s primary schools have not yet been able to open their doors to more pupils.”  New statistics from an NEU survey show hundreds of primary schools in the region open only for children of key workers. In the southwest some 273 primary schools remain closed to all except the children of key workers, despite the Government’s attempt to reopen schools to more year groups at the start of this week. 

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of following government advice.

There are lots of sources of coronavirus information, but it is important to refer only to recognised sources of data for the most accurate and up to date information, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-guidance#guidance-for-the-public

The government guidance for people shielding has recently been updated.  People shielding can now go outside of their home to meet one other person if they observe social distancing.  Full details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-

If you or someone you live with has COVID 19 symptoms then:

  • Stay at home.
  • If your symptoms worsen or you feel that you cannot manage at home, please refer to the NHS111 online coronavirus service.
  • Please do not go to your GP practice or community pharmacy.
  • Testing is now available to anyone who is experiencing symptoms

One comment

  • The question as to why people are allowed to travel such large distances around the country must also be addressed with some urgency surely?

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