Harrogate council chief: Virus testing data is 'key' to control outbreaks and avoid another lockdown

The chief executive of Harrogate Borough Council has said coronavirus testing data and public vigilance is "absolutely key" to stop the district going back into strict lockdown.

Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 12:35 pm

Wallace Sampson told a virtual meeting that the situation in Leicester - where a surge of infections has meant tough lockdown measures have been reintroduced - has shown testing data can ensure "effective responses" from local authorities.

"The earlier the data and intelligence, the earlier the response mechanisms that can be put in place", he said.

However, there was confusion at Leicester City Council as it had only known about 80 new positive cases in a two-week period in June, when the real figure known by the government had in fact been 944 cases.

Wallace Sampson said coronavirus testing data and public vigilance is "absolutelykey" to prevent another lockdown.

It has meant non-essential shops in the city have closed suddenly and schools will soon follow suit. Pubs and restaurants which had hoped to reopen at the weekend will also have to delay plans for at least two weeks.

Currently, lockdown powers sit with the government and local politicians have called on the ministers to give more clarity on how they expect localised measures to work.

It comes as North Yorkshire County Council has this week published its Covid-19 outbreak control plan which outlines how entire towns and streets could be put back into lockdown if virus cases rise.

Mr Sampson said having full testing data will help health officials in the county control outbreaks and determine whether measures should be reintroduced.

He added: "Were an outbreak such as Leicester to happen within the Harrogate district, our response would not just be purely a Harrogate Borough Council response, it would be a response that is coordinated through the outbreak management board."

The board is chaired by the leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Coun Carl Les, and will work with the Joint Biosecurity Centre - which advises the government on the covid alert level - on potential lockdown measures.

Mr Sampson said: "Ultimately, what the outbreak management board will be doing is not just ensuring that there is a plan in place to respond to any local outbreaks, but also trying to get reassurance that prevention remains paramount.

"And that is why the messages around stay at home, stay safe, wash your hands etc are all really important, notwithstanding the fact that lockdown restrictions are beginning to be eased."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

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