Plea for people to self-isolate as Norfolk gets ready for extra Covid-19 testing

A man walks past a poster in the window of a Primark shop in Manchester, in the final week of a four

People contacted by test and trace teams have been urged to stay at home from that moment. - Credit: PA

A plea has been issued for people told to self-isolate to stay in their homes from the minute they get that advice - to stem the spread of coronavirus in Norfolk.

The plea comes as Norfolk County council gets ready to roll out more testing of asymptomatic people, with the government ramping up its efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

The council carried out a trial using lateral flow tests, which can give results within 30 minutes, at King's Lynn in the run-up to Christmas.

The council is on the brink of rolling out more widespread, targeted testing.

Coronavirus testing. Picture: PA Images

Norfolk County Council is on the brink of rolling out further testing of asymptomatic people. - Credit: PA Images

That comes as the government announced people without coronavirus symptoms and those who cannot work from home will be prioritised for quick turnaround tests made available to every local authority.

Diane Steiner, deputy public health director for Norfolk, said: "We are working on this very seriously.

"During January, we are building our capacity, so we will have a greater ability to take testing to areas where we think problems are developing.

Children at Woodside Junior School in Hethersett help get the message out. Photo: Archant

Diane Steiner, deputy public health director for Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

"We are not talking about fixed sites or citywide testing like they had in Liverpool, but targeted to where it is needed the most.

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"People with symptoms can still use the normal methods of getting tested, but this is about identifying asymptomatic people.

"That might be around a particular setting where we might have concerns."

Mrs Steiner last week said people should act as if they have coronavirus to control the spread of the virus - a message which the government is using in its latest campaign featuring England's chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty.

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty Picture: Leon Neal/PA Wire

England's chief medical director Prof Chris Whitty. - Credit: PA

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospitals is at a record high in England, with more than 200 in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

A patient has tested positive for coronavirus at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is treating more than 200 patients who have Covid-19. - Credit: Nick Butcher

And medics have warned things are likely to get worse before they improve, with the full impact of festive mixing not yet seen in the health service.

And Norfolk council bosses want to get the message across that, when people are told they need to self-isolate after checks show they have come into close contact with somebody who has tested positive, that they do so straight away.

Despite the criticisms of the national NHS Test and Trace Service, Norfolk has one of the highest success rates in the county of reaching contacts of people who have tested positive, when it comes to work managed by local Public Health England teams and the county council's own contact tracing team.

As of December 30, 16,485 people had been transferred to the national contact tracing system after the involvement of those local teams, with 15,032 people reached - a rate of 91pc.

The public health team deals with the most complex cases, while the county council team is called into action when the NHS Test and Trace team is unable to make contact after a specific period of time.

With the help of district councils, whose officers have, in some cases, knocked on people's doors to track them down, that team contacted about 94pc of cases.

They are then handed back to NHS Test and Trace so they can be given the necessary guidance.

But Ceri Sumner, director of community, Information and learning at Norfolk County Council, said it was essential people do self-isolate when contacted.

She said: "If people are asked to self-isolate, that means they have to stay in from that moment. It doesn't mean they can just nip to the shops to get some food in.

"If people need help, then call us. We have got people who can do shopping for them and we have the Norfolk Assistance Scheme, so there's lots of help people can ask for."

Mrs Sumner said the latest lockdown also meant vulnerable people who were, once again, shielding, needed extra help.

She said: "We're working with the district councils to ensure the support is there.

"Great Yarmouth Borough Council have been checking up on people and that contact is really important.

"The community groups have been brilliant, too. We have a meeting with Voluntary Norfolk every week to prioritise and look at what's working and what isn't."

Latest figures, for the seven days ending January 5, showed Norfolk has 502.8 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people.

That was down slightly on 531.9 cases over the previous week.

People who need support can contact the council on 0344 800 8020.

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