What is the virus and the current picture?
The outbreak of novel coronavirus was initially named as 2019-nCoV. Since then, the World Health Organization (WHO) has named the virus ‘severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2’ (SARS-CoV-2), while the infectious disease associated with the virus is now referred to as COVID-19. The WHO has announced that the outbreak is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and at this time has not declared the outbreak as a global pandemic.
As with other respiratory illnesses, symptoms of COVID-19 can include a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. It can be more severe for some people and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
According to the WHO, 26 February 2020 saw the first time since the detection of the first case in China that there had been more new cases of COVID-19 reported from other countries.
As of 27 February 2020, there were 78,630 confirmed cases and 2,747 deaths in China, and 486 confirmed cases and 14 deaths in Europe (12 occurring in Italy). Of the confirmed cases in Europe, 15 had been detected in the United Kingdom out of a total 7,690 people tested in the UK. There have been no reported deaths caused by COVID-19 in the UK.
No confirmed cases have been detected in County Durham or the North East region.
What is the public health response?
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE) have published a range of materials providing information and advice for the public, specific sectors, and health professionals. Links to the collections are provided at the bottom of the page.
For the public, this collection includes:
• a web page which is updated daily at 2pm and provides current information on the virus and advice
• guidance for travellers returning from a number of countries, and
• advice for those intending to travel outside the UK.
For specific sectors, this includes education, employers, social or community care and residential settings, and transport.
For health professionals, this includes epidemiology, guidance on investigation of cases, self-isolation for patients, infection prevention and control, primary care, providing information to the public, and guidance for first responders.
On 10 February 2020 the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care introduced regulations to reduce the risk of further human-to-human transmission in the UK by keeping individuals in isolation where public health professionals believe there is a reasonable risk an individual may have the virus.
Well established close working arrangements are in place between Durham County Council and Public Health England for health protection outbreaks and this will continue during this outbreak.
Durham County Council has established a formal internal COVID-19 planning group that aims to coordinate the planning and response to the virus and fulfil the statutory role in assuring the Council and Health and Wellbeing Board that arrangements are in place to protect the health of the local population. The group, chaired by the DPH and meeting weekly, includes membership from Communications, Civil Contingencies Unit, Partnerships and Community Engagement, Commissioning, Adult Care, Housing, Children and Young Peoples’ Services, and Occupational Health and Safety. Corporate Management Team are receiving weekly updates.
The group has established links to external partners including County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, Durham Constabulary, Durham Community Action, the local Clinical Commissioning Groups and the Local Resilience Forum. The group will report to Corporate Management Team for strategic oversight and where decision-making authority is required.
The group is ensuring that information and advice from DHSC and PHE is shared appropriately and promptly with relevant internal and external partners.
Immediate actions initiated by the group includes a review of business continuity plans and a table-top exercise on business continuity management considerations in an escalating outbreak scenario delivered for Extended Management Team.
The group will continue to provide updates to Councillors and officers and is ensuring that the Council is well placed to deal with enquiries from members of the public.
General information for the public:
Collection of guidance for non-clinical settings: