Why We Are In Tier 2 – Public Health Dorset

Last night, Public Health Dorset hosted a live online broadcast explaining why the government placed the Dorset Council area in tier 2. Alfred promoted this broadcast, but technical problems meant the event would not stream for most people.

This is a transcription of the main points discussed:


Why did the government decide to put Dorset in tier 2?

Sam Crowe, Director of Public Health for Dorset Council and BCP Councils: “As well as our overall infection rate, they look at the infection rate, particularly in people aged over 60, the impact that might be having on our care sector and our hospitals. They’ll look at the rate of which cases are rising or falling, and also the positivity rates. And that’s the proportion of people testing positive through our local testing.

Above all, a really important factor is the pressure on the local NHS services. That includes not just our current occupancy in our hospitals, but also projections about where that might be heading. The number of cases in the peak of the epidemic in the BCP council area is roughly double the number of cases in the Dorset Council area. The infection rate started to rise at the end of August.”

Sam Crowe

Current Dorset Council infection rate

Sam Crowe: “The infection rate in BCP Council is 138 cases per 100,000 and 64 cases per 100,000 in Dorset. But our concern is the infection rate in the over 60s. It’s high. It is coming down. It is currently 132 cases per 100,000”.

Under 30s are driving infection

Sam Crowe: “The 16 to 29-year-old age group is driving our local transmission. The infection rates are much higher in that age group and have been for several weeks, but of concern is how quickly that can spread into older age groups, and above all, the over 60s.

Where are most people infected?

Sam Crowe: “… Most spread is within and in-between households. It’s quite easy to see how that infection can spread to older age groups.”

Dining out rules from Wednesday

Sam Crowe: “Although you can visit a pub or a restaurant for a substantial meal, you must do so within your own household and/or your support bubble. You cannot go in larger groups.”

Patients in hospital

Sam Crowe: “Our hospitals have seen an increase in COVID-19 patients. But the context is different from the early phase of the pandemic. Back in the spring, when we were first hit with that first wave of COVID cases, the hospitals were able to very quickly discharge patients, clear the hospitals and increase the capacity of the hospitals to cope with the expected numbers of cases.

Second time around that situation is not quite so straightforward. The NHS has been trying its best to catch up with all of that work, the non-COVID procedures that were delayed during the early part of the pandemic. They’ve done very well. They’ve tried to get people back into hospital for that essential care. That’s meant that we’ve had to go through quite a delicate balancing act to juggle that capacity.”

Reduced hospital bed capacity

Sam Crowe: “Because of this social distancing required within the hospitals, that reduces our overall bed capacity. And because of the increase in hospital patients with COVID-19 that we’ve seen in recent weeks, that puts further pressures on the hospital system. It’s not just the hospital system, it’s also the wider parts of the healthcare system that needs to be able to respond, take people being discharged from hospital, and to keep patients moving through.”

No Nightingale Hospital planned for Dorset

Sam Crowe: “You may have read that there are plans to bring forward a Nightingale Hospital in Exeter. That is not currently the plan in Dorset. The hospitals are under pressure. We do have more patients affected by COVID-19 at the moment, but we are doing our best to shift our resources and to deliver that extra capacity from within our system. Our infection rates are falling.”

Christmas arrangements for any Dorset resident

Cllr Nicola Green: “The government is changing some of the restrictions on social contact for a short period of time, from the 23rd to the 27th of December, so that people will be able to spend time with friends and family as part of a Christmas bubble.

Your Christmas bubble really does have to be exclusive. It can be made up of people from no more than three households. And you can only be in one Christmas bubble, and you cannot change that bubble.”

Can I meet anyone who isn’t part of that bubble over Christmas?

Cllr Nicola Green: “No. Between the 23rd and the 27th of December, you mustn’t meet friends or family in your home, unless they’re part of your Christmas bubble. You can continue to meet them and meet people who aren’t in the bubble outside your home, according to the rules of the tier where you’re staying.”

Can I travel to or have visitors from other parts of the country?

Cllr Nicola Green: “You can. If you travel between tiers, and indeed between the UK nations for the purpose of meeting your Christmas bubble, you should travel between the 23rd and the 27th of December.”

Vaccines – who gets them first?

Sam Crowe: “They will be rolled out in priority order. Some NHS workers will be receiving their vaccine from the Trust. But in terms of our residents, the priority will be on the most vulnerable in our communities. The first group that’s likely to be immunised will be the over 80s residents in the care sector, followed by age groups in priority order. We’ll start with people aged over the age of 80. And as more vaccine arrives, that will be progressively rolled out to younger age groups in turn.”

How do we know the vaccine is safe when it has been developed quickly?

Sam Crowe: “…The development has been accelerated out of necessity. It’s still the case that it has to go through very rigorous evaluation. So all of the vaccines have to go through the sort of standard three-phase process of demonstrating that not only do they work, but they’re also safe. That safety data has to be published in full – it will be pulled over by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority. That is the independent body that’s responsible for the green light as it were to use those vaccines in this country.

We should trust in the process. It is exactly the same process that’s used to license other pharmaceuticals. Although it’s being accelerated, I’m pretty confident that the same diligence is being shown when it comes to that data. Transparency is a really important part of that. Those large trials will be published in the journals in the usual way, and peer-reviewed by a number of experts.”

Transcription by – Shaftesbury Community Radio