THE new outbreak control plan for Southend and Essex has been revealed to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases, which could trigger a local lockdown. 

Central to the control plan is the test and trace service which identifies, contains and reduces the spread of Covid-19 in Southend and across Essex.

Essex County Council has received £5.78m and Southend Council £887,000 to drive forward the local contact tracing scheme.

It came as Southend's control plan identified rough sleepers, the elderly, people living in bedsits and special schools are in the “red zone” with a high likelihood of a coronavirus outbreak.

The potential Covid-19 hotspots were revealed as Southend Council and Essex County Council launched the new contact tracing system.

This will focus on monitoring cases with links to these groups, as well as others such as at-risk children, people in the BAME community, schools, hospitals and childcare facilities, which are classed as having a medium risk.

The local contact service will be responsible for identifying, containing and reducing the spread of Covid-19 at the local level. Local contact services will be responsible for “complex cases”. So, the Essex and Southend service will support contact tracing for schools, care homes, work places and vulnerable groups.

The local service will use testing data from Public Health England (PHE) to track and trace known connections of positive cases, and provide them with advice and guidance.

All individuals who have been in close contact with a known positive case will be asked to isolate at home for a period of 14 days.

This generally means that if people have maintained the ideal two metres distance they will not need to self-isolate. However for those that have been within one to two metres of a positive case, self-isolation may be required.

Independent Southend councillor Trevor Harp, who oversees health in Southend, said the contact tracing service will “make a real difference” in stopping the spread of the virus.

He added: “It is important that even though some guidance has been relaxed, everyone must continue to stay safe, stay apart, maintain good hand hygiene and self-isolate if you have symptoms.”

The councils have commissioned the company Provide to operate the service, funded by the Department of Health through grants of £5.78million for the county council and £887,000 for Southend.

John Niland, chief executive of Provide said: “To effectively deliver the contract tracing service, a new Microsoft Dynamics programme will be used to provide case management and information sharing in a compliant way between partners.

“This will enable the creation, triage and action of complex cases passed to both local authorities from the national test and trace system.”

He added that the system would be “invaluable” in reducing cases. However, if the councils fail to stop the virus spreading through contact tracing a local lockdown is possible.

Southend Council’s director of public health, Krishna Ramkhelawon, said: “We can stay safe by doing three simple things - stay apart, wash your hands properly, and if you have symptoms, stay home, isolate immediately and get tested.

“These are really important to help us tackle coronavirus both personally and as a community across Essex and Southend.”