Presentation by the Director of Public Health, Durham County Council.
The Board received a presentation from the Director of Public Health which provided an update on the COVID-19 Local Outbreak Management Plan (for copy of see file of minutes).
John Pearce left the meeting at 3.43pm
The Chair advised that the following responses to questions from members of the public and stakeholders would be published on the Council’s website following the meeting. They are based on information and guidance available at the time of the meeting:
1. The information is so confusing, where is the best place to get accurate, up to date and easy to understand information?
All national guidance on COVID-19 is published on the government website www.gov.uk/coronavirus
For Local information for County Durham go to www.durham.gov.uk/coronavirus
For NHS COVID-19 information use www.NHS/coronaviurs
From these three webpages you can access a wealth of guidance, vaccination, testing, local information, and health advice. All three have many linked pages providing more comprehensive information should you wish to do more detailed reading.
Dr Stewart Findley
2. How will scaling up the vaccine programme and any impact of Omicron affect other GP and health services?
We now know that a third booster is needed to protect people from the Omicron variant. It results in increased levels of antibodies and a much lower chance of hospitalisation and death.
As rates of Omicron rose we asked all vaccination sites to increase capacity over December. Booster vaccination was considered to be the highest priority activity to protect the public and the NHS.
This will have impacted on other work but to a lesser extent in primary care than it did earlier in 2021 as we now have a much greater capacity over large vaccination centres and community pharmacies.
It is always a difficult balance, but protecting against hospital admissions and increased numbers of very ill people in ITU beds will ultimately save lives and has to be our biggest priority.
Fortunately, the bulk of boosters have now been given and so the workload has decreased dramatically since Christmas.
However, we still have a lot of vaccine in the system, and I would urge anyone that has not been vaccinated to come forward now. Getting a jab in January will protect the individual and the NHS and it is possible that only those with a booster will be recognised as fully vaccinated in the future.
3. When should I isolate, and how long for?
You should self-isolate immediately if:
• You have COVID-19 symptoms;
• Or if you do not have COVID-19 symptoms but you have tested positive on an LFD test.
• Or you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19 and you are not fully vaccinated.
Let me deal with each one separately.
Firstly, if you have COVID-19 symptoms that is a high temperature; a new continuous cough; or you've lost your sense of smell or taste or it's changed. You should stay at home and self-isolate immediately. You should arrange to have a PCR test as soon as possible. If this PCR test result is positive, you must continue to self-isolate. Self-isolation lasts for 10 full days from the onset of symptoms. It is now possible to end self-isolation after 7 days, following 2 negative LFD tests taken 24 hours apart. The first LFD test should not be taken before the sixth day.
On to the second point. If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but you have tested positive on an LFD test, you must stay at home and self-isolate. At present you do not need to arrange a confirmatory PCR test, please just stay at home and self-isolate. In this instance self-isolation lasts for 10 full days from the positive test. As before, it is now possible to end self-isolation after 7 days, following 2 negative LFD tests taken 24 hours apart. The first LFD test should not be taken before the sixth day.
Moving to the third point, you must self-isolate if you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19 and you are not fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means you have had 2 doses of an approved vaccine such as Pfizer BioNTech, AstraZeneca or Spikevax (formerly Moderna).
You are also fully vaccinated if you have had one dose of the single-dose Janssen vaccine.
If you are not fully vaccinated in this scenario your self-isolation mirrors the positive case. That is 10 full days from either the onset of symptoms or from the test. As before, it is now possible to end self-isolation after 7 days, following 2 negative LFD tests taken 24 hours apart. The first LFD test should not be taken before the sixth day.
There are some other exemptions to self-isolation these are:
• if you are aged under 18 years, and you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19.
• Clinical trial participants: those who have or are taking part in an MHRA approved vaccine clinical trial.
• Adults who can evidence that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
4. What’s the difference between LFT and PCR tests – why do you take LFT when asymptomatic / PCR when you have symptoms? Please can you explain.
Lateral flow testing is a fast and simple way to test people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19, but who may still be spreading the virus. The LFD test uses an established technology to detect a viral load in proteins (antigens) that are present when a person has COVID-19. The LFD can reliably be used to detect individuals with the virus but are not showing classic symptoms.
PCR tests are often seen as the ‘gold standard’ test for identifying clinical cases of infection because it requires laboratory analysis. PCR tests detect viral genetic material, this can then be used to detect mutations and possible variants of concern, not detected using the LFD test.