Considered – A briefing by Victoria Turner, Public Health Consultant, North Yorkshire County Council.
Victoria Turner was unable to attend the meeting and so Daniel Harry read out the briefing, which had previously been circulated to the committee, as follows:
During January, COVID-19 rates peaked at the highest levels seen throughout the pandemic so far, with the 7 day rate for North Yorkshire reaching 2,046 cases per 100,000 people. Since then, case numbers have generally declined, although there was a further spike in children and younger people following the reopening of education settings after the Christmas break. The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 has also declined in recent weeks.
On February 24 2022, several changes were made to national legislation and guidance, including the removal of the legal requirement to isolate if identified as a positive COVID-19 case (although the strong advice remained to continue following self-isolation and testing guidance), and removal of national Test & Trace contact tracing system (individuals who test positive are now expected to inform their own close contacts). Further changes in COVID-19 guidance are expected from 1st April, including the removal of free testing for the general public, with more details on other measures such as face coverings yet to be announced.
Over the last week, both local and national COVID-19 case rates and hospitalisations have once again started to increase. Case rates are likely to be an underestimate of the current number of cases due to change in testing behaviours; however, it is expected that the relaxation of the test, trace and isolate guidance has led to an increase in community transmission. There is also potentially some impact of waning immunity for those whose booster doses were now nearly 6 months ago. As such the government has announced an addition to the COVID-19 vaccination programme where those over 75, those living in care homes, and those aged 12+ with a weakened immune system will be offered a second booster 6 months after their first.
More national guidance is expected from 1st April 2022 which will set out expectations for the public, workplaces, education and care settings on “living with COVID-19”. Locally we are reviewing our current approach to COVID-19 in light of the end of COVID-19 funding and the change in the national position. The UK Health Security Agency is reviewing expectations around outbreak management at a regional and local level. The public health team will also be looking at lessons learnt so far from the pandemic, plus identifying how the wider response can be stood back up again if needed in light of future variants or other escalations.
County Councillor Val Arnold asked whether details of the proposed second booster vaccination campaign for people aged over 75 years of age could be circulated to the committee.
1) That Victoria Turner or Louise Wallace provide a further update at the meeting on the committee on 17 June 2022
2) Details of the proposed second booster vaccination to be circulated to the committee.