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Cornish councillors briefed on coronavirus

Cornish councillors briefed on coronavirus

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 1:34pm 11th March 2020. (Updated at 8:38am 12th March 2020)

By Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

People in Cornwall are self-isolating themselves from coronavirus despite not having come into contact with anybody who has the virus with concerns raised about the impact the virus is having on mental health.

Mebyon Kernow councillor Andrew Long raised the issue at a meeting of Cornwall Council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee which was being briefed by Cornwall’s director public health.

Cllr Long said: “There are a lot of people who are healthy but are incredibly anxious about this – that has a direct impact on the mental health of people.”

He asked whether there was any provision being made to help provide mental health support for people affected.

“We have people who are self-isolating who have had no contact with people who are positive cases who are absolutely petrified of this,” he added.

Steve Brown, director of public health in Cornwall, told the committee that all consequences of the virus were being looked at and being taken into account.

There are currently five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cornwall and Mr Brown said that all were people who had travelled to affected areas.

Concerns have been raised that more precise details have not been released about where the cases are in Cornwall.

Loveday Jenkin asked Mr Brown: “Why can’t you divulge the general geographic area in Cornwall where these cases are?”

He replied: “There are two reasons, the first is that we do not know where these cases are.

“And we are not asking people to change their behaviours. If the public were aware that there is a case in a particular area what would they do about it?

“I understand why people feel they have a need to know but what would they do with that.

“Anybody who has had contact with a confirmed case will be contacted and if you are family or friends who have come into contact they will be contacted.

“But we actually don’t know where these cases are.”

Committee vice-chair Colin Martin said: “Presumably it is Public Health England which is handling that and we do not get that information.

“There is an idea that there is someone going around knocking on doors to let people know but it is probably someone in a call centre somewhere in Hampshire.”

Mr Brown confirmed that there were no people “on the ground” doing the work and stressed that those who were working on it were fully trained in dealing with it.

He said that the council was receiving 30 to 40 calls a day and said work was being done to ensure that they have staff to deal with the enquiries.

Mr Brown said that there was also work being done to evaluate what the impact would be on the council should 20 to 30% of its workforce are absent through the illness or having to self-isolate or care for someone.

He said: “How do we keep the show on the road if we are at that level of absenteeism?”

The council was working to ensure that all services can continue to be provided in Cornwall.

Mr Brown said that the key message which was “absolutely critical” is to encourage the public to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly.

He said that the council was also working the Local Enterprise Partnership to work with businesses and getting positive messages out about keeping working.

But he warned that there would be a “big spike at some point” and the expectation was that there could be a lot more positive cases in Cornwall and said that it was expected that it could last 10 weeks.

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