Restricting gatherings ‘trade-off’ so children can go to school - Norfolk public health director

PUBLISHED: 08:43 09 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:51 09 September 2020

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

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


Cutting down on social gatherings is a necessary trade-off to control the spread of coronavirus while ensuring children can be in school, Norfolk’s director of public health has said.

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

Dr Louise Smith welcomed the government’s move to ban gatherings of groups of six or more from Monday, as restrictions are tightened up amid a recent national rise in coronavirus cases.

Dr Smith said she was awaiting the full detail of the measures due to be announced at a press conference today, but, speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk, she said the tightening of rules made sense.

She said: “The basic principles do absolutely make sense and if what we are seeing proposed is what is actually passed, then that is in line with the guidance that’s been in place for quite some time.

“All of this is a trade-off. If we want our children to have an education, then perhaps we do need to cut down on the social gatherings to, overall, reduce the amount of spread.”

She said she had always “feared or expected” a rise in cases in autumn, but said the speed of the increase was “of concern”.

Dr Smith said it remains to be seen how much of that was down to specific outbreaks, such as that at Banham Poultry in Attleborough where there have been more than 100 positive cases, and how much was due to a general increase in the virus among the wider population.

She said: “It is a real worry that we risk, as we go into winter, seeing a major peak as we saw in the spring.”

Dr Smith said numbers had “drifted up” in Norfolk, but it was still low compared to England.

She said taking the infections from Banham out of the equation for Norfolk, the average was 6.2 positive cases per 100,000 people, which had gone up from about two per 100,000 about six weeks ago.

But she said the England average was 18 per 100,000 people, so Norfolk was still comparatively low. But she said: “We’ve just got to do what we can to keep it like that.”

Norfolk was placed on the national coronavirus watchlist last week, due to the Banham Poultry outbreak, giving Norfolk priority access to testing.

Dr Smith urged people in Norfolk to continue washing their hands, maintaining social distancing and to wear face masks. She said people should mix in as small a group as possible and identify their social bubbles.

She said: “What the government is trying to do with the national guidance is prioritise that we, in our day to day lives, do the most important things like work and education and then minimise the risk when you’ve got discretion and choice, such as only socialising two households at a time indoors and no more than six people outdoors.”

MORE: Coronavirus restrictions Q&A: What are the new rules on social gatherings?

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