Covid threat still lurks among us, warns Milton Keynes public health chief
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With lockdown guidelines easing and the Government moving to a “whack-a-mole” strategy of dealing with local coronavirus outbreaks Milton Keynes Council leaders are worried that people may be lulled into a false sense of security.
Muriel Scott, MK’s departing director of public health said despite a decline in the numbers, Milton Keynes is still recording between 10 and 20 cases per week.
“It is still circulating in Milton Keynes, so we need to stay alert,” she told Wednesday’s meeting of the health and adult social care scrutiny committee.
“We can’t relax and think we’re ok here, ” she added. Referring to recent outbreaks in Germany she added: “We have to work together and not relax.”
She said the biggest threats were “complacency and people thinking we were getting back to normal.
“We know that 2 metre distancing is really important and how we encourage people to be safe is a really important message.”
The council is collecting data on those areas and communities in the city that are believed to be at highest risk of an outbreak.
Enclosed areas, including workplaces, care homes communities, including people with a Bangladeshi heritage, and those who live in poor housing, cramped conditions, and shared spaces were mentioned during the meeting.
But Muriel Scott’s message was that everyone in MK needs to stay alert.
Responding to a question from the local democracy reporter, she said: “We need to have a strong focus across the whole of Milton Keynes on how we work together to keep people safe and healthy and minimise the risks from covid-19.”
Officials are working on “targeted messages” as part of a local outbreak control plan which is due to be published at the end of the month.
But it emerged at the meeting that there remain significant questions about how the plan will work.
Even though the council has received £1m from the Government to make their plans work, they haven’t worked out all the details yet about how it will be spent.
And the council is still looking for more localised data which can help them in prevention and control planning.
Tracy Keech, the deputy chief executive of Healthwatch Milton Keynes, urged that “real thought” be put into communicating with residents. “How will you let people know of restrictions?” she asked.
She was told that officials would be looking closely at what the data was telling them and would focus on “high risk groups.”
The committee agreed to ask local MPs to urge the health minister to provide clearer data to the city and they want the council’s communications team to develop messages around keeping people safe.