Northants preparations for coronavirus ongoing but 'significant uncertainty' about level of response needed

County council leader Matt Golby, whose authority is coordinating local multi-agency efforts made a statementat yesterday's cabinet.

Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 1:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 1:14 pm
Leader Matt Golby said there is 'significant uncertainty' about the level of response needed to coronavirus.

The leader of Northamptonshire County Council has said work is ongoing to prepare for the impact of coronavirus but there is significant uncertainty about the level of response required.

In a pre-prepared statement read out at yesterday’s (March 11) cabinet meeting leader Matt Golby said the authority is leading on the local preparations to deal with the virus outbreak as it develops.

He said: “Work is ongoing to prepare for the impact of covid 19 in Northamptonshire. This is a multi agency effort being led locally by NCC through public health and emergency planning, the Clinical Commissioning Group and Public Health England also. Incident management structures have been established and plans are being developed for the implementation of the UK action plan.

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“Whilst our understanding of covid 19 is improving all the time there remains significant uncertainty about the scale of the response required and therefore the associated financial impacts. NCC has mechanisms to capture the costs incurred both in terms of expenditure and diverting resources with a view of ensuring that we can track and if possible seek to reclaim them through the national finance assistance scheme.

The cabinet and I are having regular briefings and we are assured the public health department here is linked very closely with what is going on centrally through government.”

As of yesterday there were five recorded cases of coronavirus in Northants and 324 nationally with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the country should prepare for a significant outbreak.

Local authorities have responsibility for emergency planning in the case of events such as medical emergencies.

However the emergency planning department at NCC is currently not at full staff capacity (the latest finance paper reports a £25,000 underspend) and the authority’s government appointed-commissioner Tony McArdle told ministers in his most recent report published in January he had anxieties about the ability of the authority to rebuild its emergency planning team because of financial constraints.

The council’s assistant director of corporate and community services Kerry Purnell is leading on the emergency planning. At the cabinet meeting she said incident control procedures were in place and managers from across the council were meeting regularly to discuss coronavirus. She said council leaders would be briefed this Thursday on current arrangements.

In her latest public statement Northamptonshire director of public health Lucy Wightman said the risk to the public remains low.

The covid 19 response is however being dictated centrally with government still in the containment phase of it’s battle plan response. The situation is developing fast and the government’s chief medical adviser said at the start of this week that it is likely within the fortnight that those with minor respiratory tract infections or fevers would be told to self isolate for a week.

Currently the advice for people to keep safe is to wash their hands for 20 seconds and to catch colds or sneezes in a tissue.

The virus has now gripped Italy and the country is on total lockdown with the disease spreading fast through Europe.