'Phenomenal' effort setting up Calderdale testing systems to slow spread of virus

Setting up extra testing systems in just a few days to respond to outbreaks of the new COVID variant in Calderdale has been “phenomenal”, says the borough’s Public Health Director.

Saturday, 12th June 2021, 3:00 pm

However Deborah Harkins urged people to make sure they got both vaccinations to protect themselves against the Delta variant.

She told Calderdale Health and Wellbeing Board: “We are in a race between the rollout of vaccine and the spread of the new variant of COVID – we feel like we are neck and neck at the moment but there is a real risk with the recent increase in case rates,” said Ms Harkins.

Rates were reaching around 70 cases per 100,000 people – in April the rate was 24 per 100,000.

Mobile testing unit in Todmorden
Mobile testing unit in Todmorden

“Colleagues in the NHS are working so hard to make sure we are getting everyone vaccinated because that’s what is going to enable us to keep our freedoms,” she said.

Ms Harkins was presenting an updated version of Calderdale’s Local Outbreak Prevention and Management Plan.

Potential scenarios and responses which had been worked through during its preparation in April had paid dividends enabling partners to respond quickly over the last week.

She said scenarios examined included a new variant of COVID being present across the borough and pockets of cases developing within the borough, which had now happened.

“We are in a couple of scenarios now that we worked on and that has been useful in getting us on the front foot.

“We also developed a communication plan based on those scenarios,” said Ms Harkins.

She said the opportunity to put the plan into actions was demonstrated this week when case rates in part of Halifax began increasingly rapidly and a cluster of cases were identified in Todmorden.

“We were given the opportunity to do the extra testing and enhanced contact tracing as preventative measures to try and contain the spread of both Delta and Alpha variants.

“I have been overwhelmed by the support and response we have had from partners in the voluntary and community sectors, the NHS and across the council and health and social care.

“It is phenomenal that we have managed to set up local testing systems within a few days and that’s been a real team effort,” said Ms Harkins.

Board members said they believed the plan was clear and understood by all partners.

Ms Harkins said the number of cases had been increasing day on day, week on week from the low point in April, gradually increasing through May which was expected when restrictions began to be relaxed.

Although cases were increasing, there were still relatively low levels of older people testing positive, she said, adding uptake of the vaccine had been very high.