LEVELS of support to deal with Covid will be downgraded locally, as elsewhere, from today.
Dorset Public Health Director Sam Crowe said the change of course comes as the region is in the midst of a second coronavirus spike, caused by a variant of Omicron known as BA2.
He describes the current outbreak as “a bit bumpy” and predicts a peak in hospital admissions in the first and second week of April, followed by a decline in infection rates.
He told Dorset Health and Wellbeing Council on Wednesday that since the end of the first week of March there has been a higher spike, particularly in the Dorset Council area with infection rates over 1,300 per 100,000 people – similar to the rest of the South West.
Mr Crowe told advisers Dorset had 254 people in hospital as a result of the current outbreak, with some of them testing positive in hospital for other reasons; but he said fewer people needed oxygen, which he described as “very, very good news”.
The meeting heard that with around 11 per cent of local NHS staff on sick leave (nearly 700) and with a high number of people in hospitals awaiting discharge where there was no care package or residential care in place, staff continued to be under great pressure.
Dr Forbes Watson of the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group said the situation was disrupting NHS services at all levels and welcomed the advice to “take precautions even if you don’t need them”.
Mr Crowe said the government’s strategy is now to ‘live with covid’ which will mean the end of contact tracing and the end of free lateral flow and PCR testing with the focus now on protection of the most vulnerable, including those in care facilities.
He said patient-facing and adult care staff will still be able to access testing as well as a range of other settings, including prisons, assisted living facilities and residential care for children with disabilities. and other important needs.
He said that from April 1 the general advice was to stay home if you feel unwell, rather than asking for a test – “don’t go out and spread it around”, he said.
Mr Crowe said his public health teams will continue to offer support in the management of local outbreaks in some settings, but the level of support will be reduced although the situation will continue to be reviewed, working with partners local.
He said Dorset’s vaccination rates were good, which had helped the situation, with a program underway for a fourth shot for over-75s and children aged 5 to 11 who are clinically vulnerable.