Following interim findings published last month, the Bedford Borough COVID-19 Deep Dive Final Report has been published.
This report confirms that the local COVID-19 infection rate has declined since mid-June and that there was no singular cause of the higher infection rate seen in Bedford Borough.
The infection rate in Bedford Borough had been highest in the East of England. In response, Bedford Borough Council, Bedfordshire CCG, and Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust worked with Public Health England and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to investigate why the rate was high, and what could be done to bring it down in this ‘Deep Dive’.
The investigation found that most cases followed people being exposed within their households and household visitors, with exposures elsewhere remaining low. The most recent cases have been among people of working age, and within Bedford town.
The investigation looked at coronavirus infections in healthcare settings, care homes and workplaces and concluded that there was no one cause of the higher local infection rate.
Following interim recommendations published three weeks ago, action has been taken to increase testing capacity at Bedford Hospital, and to increase engagement with communities where more cases were seen.
The report also noted the collaborative partnership working across local, regional and national organisations, and this is set to continue.
The final recommendations of the ‘Deep Dive’ report include continued work to communicate with and engage with local communities, continuing to support care homes, and ensuring all local outbreaks are reported to the Director of Public Health.
While the local infection rate has decreased since mid-June, there has been an increase in new infections in the last two weeks, so the situation will be monitored closely and the public are being urged to remain cautious.
People are being reminded to continue to observe the 2m social distancing policy, wear a face covering – especially on public transport, shops, and crowded places, and wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or hand sanitiser if that is unavailable.
Anyone with symptoms, including a new persistent cough, high temperature or a change or loss of taste or smell should immediately self-isolate and arrange a test via nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.
David Carter, CEO, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:
“The findings from this report highlights the positive action we’ve already taken, working with our local partners, to manage the continuing challenge of COVID-19 in our community. We would urge everyone in Bedford Borough to continue being vigilant and take every precaution necessary to guard against this virus spreading in our community.
“We have increased the capacity for COVID-19 testing at Bedford Hospital that allows us to get a faster turnaround time (in 90mins) on results using new advanced technology. Our staff continue to work tirelessly around the clock to ensure that we can provide the very best care, and I continue to thank them for all their efforts to keep people safe.”
Dave Hodgson, Elected Mayor of Bedford Borough said:
“We’re grateful to Public Health England for undertaking this work and to local partners for their co-operation. Since the Deep Dive analysis was completed, the number of local cases has crept up and we continue to see a higher infection rate than the East of England average, so we cannot be complacent and must continue to follow social distancing and other advice.
“In terms of recent transmission and looking at how we can continue to control infection rates, what I take from this is the importance of good practices in all workplaces so employees can work safely, and the importance of every individual continuing to follow preventative measures in the home and while out and about.
“Most Bedford Borough residents have been great at following the guidance and I would urge residents to keep following the guidelines.”
Patricia Davies, Accountable Officer Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group said:
“The partnership work undertaken by the Council, NHS, Public Health and our local community including councillors and faith leaders, has without question helped to prevent further spread of coronavirus in Bedford. The recommendations from the report will help local agencies to support a downward decline in cases, but we must not be complacent.
“Coronavirus will remain in our communities for some time to come and so it’s never been more important, especially as we edge ever closer to winter, that we continue to follow guidance. While there is no cure for the virus yet, we can continue to protect those we love, our families and our communities by social distancing, washing our hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitiser, and wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces.”
The report is available on the Bedford Borough Council website