Residents are Hertfordshire’s ‘secret weapon’ in beating Covid, says health chief

Every single person who fails to self-isolate can lead to a staggering 437 further infections

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 2:48 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th March 2021, 2:50 pm

Public health chief Jim McManus has praised residents as the ‘secret weapon’ in beating Covid-19 in Hertfordshire – after the vast majority of people were found to be correctly ‘self-isolating’ when required.

But pointing to national warnings of a possible further surge in cases later in the year, he stresses that ‘we have to keep going’.

Across Hertfordshire infection rates have dropped to around 32 cases per 100,000 population.

Public health chief Jim McManus

That still leaves hundreds of people in the county who need to self-isolate – either because they have tested positive for the virus or they have been contacted by ‘track and trace’.

And last week – as part of the county’s ‘Self Isolation Support Day’ – officials visited the doorsteps of 893 Hertfordshire residents, who had been instructed to self-isolate.

Nationally there have been concerns that as few as one-in-four people – or 25 per cent – have self-isolated when required.

But in Hertfordshire officials found the vast majority of residents – 89 per cent – were isolating at home.

A further nine per cent were reported to be in hospital, in a quarantine hotel or at a Covid-19 test site.

Only two per cent were found to be failing to comply – and they were reported to the police.

Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus estimates that every single person who fails to self-isolate can lead to a staggering 437 further infections – whereas those who self-isolation can stop the virus in its tracks.

And speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, March 24, he stressed the importance of self-isolation going forward.

“As we go out of the pandemic it’s really important that people self-isolate,” he said.

“It’s really important that we do this – and the fact that 89 per cent of our residents are doing this is incredible.

“And that’s why I say that our residents are our secret weapon. – because they really are on board and the vast majority of them are doing it.”

At the briefing Mr McManus accepted that while most people are keen to adhere to self-isolation requirements, there are those who will need practical, emotional or financial support to do so.

“It’s probably no surprise then that when we contacted these 893 people we made 528 offers of support to them,” he said.

“[. . .] I think it demonstrates that if we want people to self-isolate, some people can do it really well, others need support – and that’s fine.”

From Monday, March 29, easing of Covid restrictions mean that up to six people – or two households – will be able to meet outside and the ‘stay at home’ order will end.

But despite the easing of the restrictions, Mr McManus stresses the need for residents ‘not to take the brakes off’.

He says the continuing roll-out of the vaccine and lower numbers of cases could create the perfect conditions to suppress the virus. But he stresses that it is “a very delicate time”.

“We are not that far from a sweet-spot of things going where we want them to go to – but it could just as easily turn,” he said.

“So people really need not to kind of take the brakes off over the Easter weekend – and not to let rip.

“Because what we know from last year is that when people did that the numbers picked up dramatically. And the more the numbers pick up, the longer the restrictions will continue.

“So the message is, ‘you are doing a fantastic job, keep on going and you will get us out of this’.

“And actually there are lessons her that other areas in the country can learn.”

HertsHelp – which can offer help and support to anyone who is self-isolating – can be reached on 0300 123 4044 or at [email protected]