Introducing the NEL Incident Management Team
The NEL Incident Management Team (IMT) has been established to bring together the Directors of Public Health (DsPH) from the seven boroughs and Corporation of London across NEL with representatives from Public Health England and the STP/ICS, to align the public health response to COVID-19 in NEL. The group meets weekly every Monday afternoon, chaired by Joe McDonnell, DPH for Waltham Forest. The group discuss alignment of COVID-19 outbreak prevention and control across the NEL footprint.
The DsPHs are acutely aware that primary care is a crucial part of the NEL COVID-19 response and as such have agreed that they will align their messages to primary care to ensure consistency across the patch. Primary care messaging will be a standing item on their Monday agenda and issued as required via the CCG GP Coronavirus bulletin.
Local testing and COVID-19 case numbers
As you will be aware, there have been issues with access to Pillar 2 testing across London, and you are likely to have experienced this in your local area. We are continuing to work collectively as public health representatives with the testing providers to address this, whilst also working together as DsPH to share best practice around managing and prioritising testing locally.
The wider impact is that the number of cases of confirmed COVID-19 showing in the data does not reflect the true number of cases in the community. This is because there are significant numbers of people in our population with symptoms who have been unable to be tested for COVID-19, and they will not appear in the data at the moment. Therefore, it is likely that the real number of cases is substantially larger than the current data suggests. Office of National Statistics data puts the prevalence of COVID within London as approximately 0.2%, or 1 in 500 people.
This is reflected in the recent decision nationally to declare London to be an Area of Concern. At present, there are no additional restrictions agreed within London, but this situation can potentially change very rapidly.
Public health advice for children returning to school
We are aware that the return to schools will have generated more enquiries about what would normally be considered cold symptoms at this time of year. This has the additional impact of affecting staff who have children of school age potentially being unable to work if the school asks them to self-isolate. We have had feedback about this being an issue and thought it would be useful to remind you where you can source the guidance for children returning to school which is regularly updated. The advice remains that children should be sent home, asked to self-isolate and get a test only if they have one or more of the main symptoms of COVID-19, or to self-isolate if they have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
More information can be found in the government guidance and these guiding principles by the RSCPH. If you have websites that provide information on this, please ensure they are updated with the latest advice.