'We're not out of the woods yet' warns Herts Public Health Chief warns as council sets out COVID-19 recovery plan

Jim McManus presented an update on the county’s COVID-19 response at the Public Health and Prevention Cabinet Panel

Friday, 19th February 2021, 2:10 pm
Updated Friday, 19th February 2021, 2:15 pm

The director of Public Health for Hertfordshire has told how 'we are not out of the woods yet' with coronavirus but there is a vision that by the summer a journey through recovery can begin.

Jim McManus presented an update on the county’s COVID-19 response at the Public Health and Prevention Cabinet Panel.

In his presentation to the panel on February 11, Mr McManus said there was a vision that by the summer, efforts will have brought the virus transmission to the stage where ‘we can begin the journey through recovery’.

Jim McManus, the director of Public Health for Hertfordshire

Mr McManus said that the positivity rate of the virus is still too high. On February 10, it was around eight per cent. This means one in 11 people are still testing positive which means the virus is still circulating without showing symptoms. The aim is for the rate to be below five per cent.

He said: “There is no doubt that the lockdown is having a beneficial impact but at the same time we need people to continue self-isolating, we need people to keep on with the measures we want them to take. Because deaths have not plummeted and reduced.

“Sadly we’re still seeing people dying. Sadly our hospitals are very busy and there will be a lag between cases coming down and deaths.

“And as we are seeing more variants with greater transmissibility, it’s more important that we keep going with prevention.

“So we have to thank our residents for complying with the measures that have achieved this drop. But it’s a case of we have to keep on going because as we know the vaccine is not yet proven to prevent transmission, we don’t know that. So we have to do prevention measures as well.

“Our epidemiology suggests that we’re moving out of a massive wave. We are not out of the woods yet. It could easily turn if we don’t take the measures we need to.

“Our vision is the Health Protection Board creates the epidemiological conditions as much as possible for Hertfordshire to exit lockdown and stay out of lockdown.

“So our vision is that by summer 2021 we will have brought the virus transmission to the stage where we can begin the journey through recovery.

“And that means we need to articulate how for example we get schools to operate safely. That we have sustainably low transmission rates.

"We may not get zero COVID, we’ll be living with COVID for a while. But we should aim to get COVID as low as possible in its circulation for a prolonged period of time.”

The county council ran a pilot programme which supports those workers who can’t afford to self isolate -173 people took up the service with only five of those needing any kind of enforcement measure.

The report stated that a major programme of engagement and support, especially with community champions and front line social care staff and Black, Asian and Multi Ethnic communities, is under way to encourage vaccine take up.

The report was noted by members of the panel.