Norfolk below coronavirus ‘alert’ level amid plea not to get test for having ‘runny nose’

Banham Poultry has had a coronavirus outbreak. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Banham Poultry has had a coronavirus outbreak. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Norfolk is now below “alert” levels over coronavirus and the Banham Poultry outbreak peak has passed, according to the county’s director of public health.

Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella Wilkinson - Credit: Archant

In the past seven days there have been three cases in Breckland, 12 cases in Great Yarmouth and eight cases in Norwich, Dr Louise Smith said at a press conference today.

She said of 506 tests at the mobile unit near Banham Poultry in Attleborough there had been just three positive cases in the past week, compared to 92 in the seven days previously.

She said in Norfolk, the overall rate was nine cases per 100,000 people, compared to the rate for England of 26 cases per 100,000.

She said: “The figures are markedly lower than they were a week ago and bring us down below the alert or red levels.

Aerial view of Banham Poultry. Picture: Mike Page

Aerial view of Banham Poultry. Picture: Mike Page - Credit: Archant

“We are seeing a much, much lower number of cases now in Norfolk, all signs that the peak that was linked to the outbreak has passed and our need for additional support is reducing, I feel that’s a really encouraging, optimistic position for us to be in.”

A technical glitch had caused problems with people getting tested in Norfolk and Dr Smith urged people only to get tests if they thought they had coronavirus symptoms - high temperature, loss of smell and taste and a new, persistent cough.

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She said: “Please don’t ask for Covid test if you have other symptoms, such as a runny nose. And bear in mind if you do have a virus or a cold, that’s probably a sign that you’ve been close enough to other people to catch a virus, which is a concern in terms of being Covid safe.

“Testing is not set up or designed to confirm that people do not have coronavirus or that they have cleared it, so it should not be used by people looking for a negative result or a negative test.”

Banham Poultry in Attleborough, where there has been a Covid-19 outbreak. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Banham Poultry in Attleborough, where there has been a Covid-19 outbreak. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

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She said, while there had been a handful of other cases in Norfolk, there had been no specific outbreaks.

And Dr Smith said there were no concerns at the moment around schools, which have just gone back.

She said: “At this stage, and it is still early days, we do not have concerns about cases in schools. We are monitoring that very closely and our education team are in daily contact with schools.

“We have arrangements in place to roll out availability of swab kits to targeted locations if they are necessary.”

She said it was crucial that schools and businesses did not lessen up Covid-19 precautions behind the scenes.

She said: “Our biggest concern with schools is their business continuity planning and we have exactly the same concern across health, social care and any other workplace.

“What we are seeing, locally and nationally, is that workers, businesses and service providers are very, very careful in the Covid-safe precautions they have put in place when they are dealing with the general public.

“Where we are seeing reports and cases of people taking their eyes off the ball is in staff to staff interactions. Business continuity arrangements for any business or service provider are vulnerable if you have staff meetings, training meetings, everyone gathering for lunch in the staffroom at lunchtime.

“What we’ve found is, if we have a case, there is a real risk that everybody who was also in that training room meeting or staffroom will also be asked to isolate for 14 days.

“If I had one message, it would be bubbles apply not just for front-facing service users, but also for your staff.”

Dr Smith said workers at Banham Poultry would be returning on a rolling basis, after completing their period of isolation.

She said that the data in terms of contract tracing, which had come into fire when only half of the Banham Poultry cases had been successfully contact traced, was “moving forward”.

She said: “We are seeing in the reports form NHS Test and Trace the percentage that they are successfully contacting go up.” The council’s own trace and trace team started on Thursday and she said: “On our first day of operations, we were referred fewer than five failed cases, bearing in mind that’s now coming through to us at 24 hours.”

Tom McCabe, head of paid services at the county council, said it was not yet clear who would manage or pay for the Covid Marshals announced by the government. He said guidance was awaited, but he suspected it would fall to the district councils.

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