That is one of seven themes on which the government has demanded local authorities set out how they will deal with any flare-ups of coronavirus in their communities.
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Existing outbreak control plans are already in place in Lancashire and are being used as part of the response to the pandemic, but councils across the country have been ordered to draw up dedicated Covid-focused documents by the end of the month.
Other issues which will be addressed include local testing capacity and the integration of local and national data – both subjects which Lancashire’s director public health, Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi, has spoken out about this week.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that testing swabs should be put in the hands of local public health teams so that they could be directed to where they were most needed – rather than relying on individuals to book tests for themselves.
Dr. Karunanithi also warned that he and his counterparts were unable to see “basic information” about two thirds of all tests carried out – such as the identity of the individual and their Covid status.
The Lancashire County Council area has now been given £6.3m from the government to implement the outbreak control plan, which will also set out how to support people forced to self-isolate.
Laura Sales, the authority’s legal and democratic services director, told a cabinet meeting that the main aim of the plan was to protect the public.
“It focuses on the development of the test and track regime, with a primary focus on those areas where you might have complex outbreaks and it takes a little bit of thought and planning to deal with them – care homes, schools, prisons – institutions where lots of individuals interface with other individuals,” she explained.
Cabinet agreed to delegate authority to Dr. Karunanithi to finalise the plan and for any necessary expenditure to be authorised by officers – although a cabinet report noted that it was impossible at this stage to give a “realistic estimate” of the costs involved.
The implementation of the plan will be overseen by Lancashire’s health and wellbeing board – and district authorities were reassured that their role and voice in the process would be vital.
“We are quite a varied and diverse county, so as the virus progresses, we will have different requirements in different parts of the county and the outbreak management plan addresses how we will respond as need arises,” Ms. Sales added.
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