Norfolk placed on national coronavirus ‘watchlist’ after Banham Poultry outbreak

Banham Poultry in Attleborough, where there has been an Covid-19 outbreak/Norfolk's director of publ

Banham Poultry in Attleborough, where there has been an Covid-19 outbreak/Norfolk's director of public health Dr Louise Smith. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY/ELLA WILKINSON - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/ELLA WILKINSON

Norfolk has been placed on the national coronavirus watchlist as an ‘area of enhanced support’ in the wake of almost 120 cases connected to Banham Poultry.

As county council bosses revealed there have now been 119 positive tests connected to the outbreak at the Attleborough meat factory, the government has decided to step in and declare Norfolk as an ‘area of enhanced support’.

The intervention - after the county was placed on Public Health England’s watchlist due to rising cases - means Norfolk will be able to draw on extra help from the government to help deal with the outbreak, including priority access to testing and track and trace.

While being on the watchlist will not mean any further restrictions on Norfolk at this stage, it does mean increased monitoring of cases and potential additional steps in future if the county’s infection rates do not start to fall.

Leaders at Norfolk County Council and the county’s director of public health were quick to stress it did not mean local lockdowns would inevitably follow.

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

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

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health, said she was confident the Banham Poultry outbreak had been contained, with the 119 positive cases all linked to factory workers and their households.

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There have now been 1,784 tests carried out, with mobile testing units based in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Thetford and Attleborough.

Dr Smith said: “All the evidence so far suggests that we have contained the Banham Poultry outbreak.

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“Although cases have risen in Great Yarmouth, Breckland and Norwich, we have always been clear this would happen, as Banham cases fed through into the figures. They are all linked to workers and their households.

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

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

“We can now draw on additional government support, to obtain swifter data and testing, to support our local efforts.

“Thank you to everyone in Norfolk who has been following advice on hand washing and social distancing, which has ensured that we do not have a serious, wider problem across our communities.

“If you are contacted by test and trace, please isolate for the stated period and get tested as soon as possible if you have symptoms. You will be playing a crucial part in keeping coronavirus under control.”

Being designated as an area for enhanced support means;

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

• Priority for any extra testing capacity

• Continued priority for mobile testing units as required

• Ringfencing of NHS Test and Trace call centre tracing resources

• Priority for test results and data sharing

• Enhanced backward contact tracing

• Help from senior/experienced public health experts

All staff at the plant, plus their households, have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days if they have not tested positive and for 10 days if they have tested positive – households of those who have tested positive need to isolate for 14 days.

However, earlier this week, the council said the national NHS Test and Trace system had only managed to complete contact tracing in the cases of Banham Poultry workers who tested positive for coronavirus.

A company from Essex was brought in to redo the NHS Test and Trace work, with the county council keen to be permitted to tackle the problem locally, rather than relying on the national system.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “We welcome the Secretary of State’s decision to make Norfolk an area of enhanced support, following the coronavirus outbreak at Banham Poultry.

“This is all about support, not restrictions. There will not be extra rules affecting how any of us live and work in Norfolk. This is purely about the government providing swifter data and testing and giving us the support we need.

“I would reassure the community and our visitors that Norfolk is still a safe place in which to live, work and visit.”

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group on Norfolk County Council, said: “This looks less like extra support than starting to catch up with the level of support Norfolk should have had all along.

“If the outbreak is under control it’s a bit late - we need support at the start of the problem not when it’s been resolved.

“This feels like another failure in the government’s policy and I just wish the local Conservative leadership would stop trying to paper over obvious gaping failures in the system. It lets down our own excellent teams and Norfolk residents.”

Other areas which have been placed on the government watchlist and entitled to enhanced support include Peterborough, Birmingham, Swindon and Middlesbrough. Leeds was added today.

But being on the watchlist does not automatically lead to local lockdowns and restrictions, of the types which were introduced in areas such as Leicester, Blackburn, Greater Manchester and Bolton.

In those areas restrictions on movement of people were reintroduced, limiting where people could meet, where they could go and what businesses could open.

New figures have revealed the new cases of Covid-19 across Norfolk since the Banham Poultry coronavirus outbreak - with numbers noticeably up in Breckland, Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

The figures, for the seven days to August 31, are based on tests carried out in laboratories (pillar one of the Government’s testing programme) and in the wider community (pillar two).

The rate is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people.

The new figures show that in Yarmouth, where there were 28 new cases recorded in the seven days to August 31 - the equivalent of 28.2 per 100,000 people, that figures has now risen to 35.2 per 100,000.

The rate in Breckland had jumped from 21 to 35, but the latest figures show it at 32.3 per 100,000.

In Norwich the rate jumped from 5.7 to 16.4, with 23 new cases on the eight over the previous seven days. The latest figure is 13.9 per 100,000.

The rates have been much lower in other parts of the county. For the seven days to August 31, Broadland’s is at 3.8, up from 2.3, with five new cases up from three in the previous seven days.

West Norfolk was steady at 3.3, while one new case in North Norfolk meant the rate there went up from zero to one case per 100,000.

Overall the average rate for Norfolk is 8.85 per 100,000, compared with the average across the East of England of 10.2 and across England at 13.5.

As announced last Friday, Banham Poultry staff who are self-isolating are being offered support, if they need it, from the Norfolk Assistance Scheme – including food and medical supplies and hardship fund payments. The number is 01603 223392

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