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Duncan Selbie's Friday Message - 7 August 2020

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Dear everyone

Locally enhanced COVID-19 contact tracing

Contact tracing continues to be a crucial component in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and containing local outbreaks of the virus. Last week Blackburn with Darwen council in partnership with PHE launched a locally supported contact tracing arrangement for the borough, which was followed by Luton this week, part of and complementary to the national NHS Test and Trace arrangements. Council staff will use their local knowledge to contact people who are hard to reach, drawing on the data generated by NHS Test and Trace and this is joined up public health at its best. This local approach was first piloted in Leicester and several other local authorities are being supported to enhance the system over the coming weeks.

We are in this together

I thought many may wish to read what Greg Fell, Director of Public Health for Sheffield, had to say at a joint media briefing yesterday with Baroness Dido Harding, Chair of NHS Test and Trace. Greg’s words speak for themselves:

Every local authority up and down the country is taking their responsibilities very seriously. Getting this right is fundamentally important to reopening the economy. And if we don’t, we’ll find ourselves back to where we were a couple of months ago. We have skin in this game and take it seriously.

In Sheffield we’re working with NHS Test and Trace on a joint system and we’re improving it day-by-day. Locally we have excellent links between the directors of public health teams and NHS Test and Trace, particularly with Public Health England on managing complex cases and incidents. And on data, credit is due to the many people who have improved access to enable us with NHS Test and Trace to manage situations as they develop. This is enormous progress.

We know there are improvements that need to be made, especially to engage communities that are hard to reach, but we don’t want separate systems. We’re finding the sweet spot between a national system and local systems. A significant amount of work is done by the national system and locally we can then get to grips with the communities that we don’t find easy to reach. That can probably only be resolved by boots on the ground locally, with locally known and trusted stakeholders pushing messaging out into communities. It’s not either or, it’s both. And what really matters is that people engage with that system and are getting tested even if they only have mild symptoms. It really, really, matters.

This is a shared endeavour and we’re in this together.

Greater Manchester

This last week, Greater Manchester’s local authorities and public services have been working round the clock to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. I want to pay tribute to them, the PHE public health teams supporting this work and all those around the country who are tackling similar challenges with every means at their disposal.

The Director of Public Health for Trafford, Eleanor Roaf, discusses what she has experienced of COVID-19 and why everyone must continue to be vigilant on the BBC Newscast podcast, and I encourage you to listen.

Surveillance data

Good data drives good decision-making and the breadth of our surveillance reports reflect the importance of this. You can read the weekly reports here and my letter yesterday to council Chief Executives and Directors of Public Health.

This annex provides further information on the various available data sources.

COVID-19 travel and heat alerts

And finally, many people are going on their summer travels, but COVID-19 is not taking a break and so travelling safely requires a level of awareness and planning that is new to all of us. We have published two blogs this week with practical tips and resources to help travellers enjoy their holiday and stay safe, whether it is in the UK or overseas.

Likewise, many of us will be enjoying warm weather at home in the UK but those recovering from COVID-19, self-isolating and those with underlying health conditions may find it more difficult to stay fit and well during this hot spell. A range of advice can be found here.

Best wishes



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