Key Components of the COVID19 Outbreak response

There are a number of steps that are taken in the identification and management of an outbreak. The most important step though is prevention.

We can all help to reduce the spread of the virus by:

  • Social distancing
  • Using face coverings, especially on public transport
  • Washing our hands regularly
  • Coughing or sneezing into the crook of our arm
  • And taking action if we do have symptoms; self isolating and getting tested

Many environments and settings need to take extra precautions to keep people safe, for example, limiting the number of people in shops, or even the use of Personal Protective Equipment in some workplaces. We all need to take notice of the advice given and follow it carefully.

Case and contact identification

Usually this will start with someone having symptoms, having a test and being confirmed as positive.

It is really important that people can access testing as and when they need it. There are a number of different routes for this, which can be accessed through:

  • NHS website
  • Phone 119

If they do have a positive result, they will be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service. Any close contacts that they have had while they were infectious would be identified.

Close contacts within a household or small family/friend group would be asked to self-isolate, and to have a test if they have or develop symptoms. If there was a more complex setting, then this would be recorded by NHS Test and Trace and flagged to a specialist team involving Public Health England and the local authority.

Outbreak recognition and declaration

Contacts within these more complex settings would be identified. Testing would proceed, sometimes for all of them or sometimes just for any people with symptoms, depending on the circumstances. If one or more of those contacts have become infected, then we can identify that spread of the infection has occurred in that setting. This is referred to as an outbreak.

It is also possible that a generalised increase in cases might occur; if so, we would seek to understand the cause of this and intervene to prevent spread. The Joint Biosecurity Centre will be working to support the identification of this type of scenario and the actions that could be taken.

The use of data collection, and sharing of this between the key organisations, is very important to support this work.

Outbreak investigation and closure

There are two main goals, one is to halt the spread of any infection, and the other is to understand whether there is anything that could be put into place to prevent it happening again. This may require considerable expertise and support from a number of partners across the city and the wider regional system. There are set criteria to understand when an outbreak is over; though the setting would receive support for longer than that period if required.

Reviewing and refining plans

This is a new virus, and we are learning all the time about the best ways to reduce its spread. We will take lessons learnt and feed them back into the prevention plans that we have in place for other settings, to help to reduce the risk of outbreaks.

Data and information

There will be a wide range of data that will be collected to help to understand the picture of COVID19 across the city and surrounding areas. As well as reporting on what has happened, this will proactively identify possible clusters, and changes in trends to enable early warning of potential issues as well as the monitoring of the impact of mitigation measures. This will be layered with local data and intelligence to provide a rich picture.

Data sharing will be carried out under the existing legal frameworks, which includes the Health Service Control of Patient Information Regulations 2002; this both preserves patient confidentiality as well as providing the security and confidence organisations need to share the data they need to respond to coronavirus (COVID-19). 

These can be found on the GOV.UK website.