Statement from Director for Public Health, Julia Burrows and Barnsley Council Leader, Cllr Sir Steve Houghton CBE, Chair of Barnsley Outbreak Control Engagement Board:
The number of cases in Barnsley is higher than the national average. We are seeing transmission in the community across the borough, and like many places across the country, have had clusters and outbreaks in a handful of care homes, schools and workplaces, as we expected would happen.
Since the beginning of the outbreak in March, Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Barnsley peaked through April and began to gradually reduce in May. Initially, this was being most closely monitored in hospital and care home settings (through Pillar One testing).
During May and June, we have also been able to monitor testing and spread out in the community (through Pillar Two testing). However, throughout this there have been two key issues in Barnsley that we are watching very closely and incorporating into our local control.
Firstly, throughout the course of the outbreak we have seen higher rates of Coronavirus (COVID-19) locally than the national average. This is related to some natural variation in the disease; our proactive and targeted testing; our higher density of care homes; and our local population which is older than the national average and has higher rates of underlying diseases and other COVID-19 risk factors such as smoking.
Secondly, we have seen a much slower reduction than the national average, such that daily cases levelled off through May and June, instead of continuing to reduce. This has been largely due to local clusters of cases including in a few care homes and workplaces.
The good news is that now these clusters have started to ease thanks to local control measures, and we are seeing the early signs of a return to the reduction in daily cases across Barnsley.
According to our most up to date data, we have seen a reduction in the number of daily new cases and in the average number of new cases for four consecutive days. We are continuing to monitor this and other data very closely, and to proactively manage the disease locally and in line with national guidance.
This is why we do not believe at this stage any further measures will need to be implemented such as the ones seen in Leicester.
However, it is always important to be aware that the nature of this disease means things can change quickly and the fact our rate has been high does mean that we ask for extra caution and vigilance by everyone in Barnsley.
This is especially important in light of the further lifting of restrictions at the weekend.
It’s so important to keep following the guidance: maintain social distance, wash your hands and wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces. Stay at home and self-isolate if you have any symptoms or have been a contact and asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.
It is worth noting that, along with everywhere else in the country, we will also see the reporting of a lot of extra positive cases this week, which may seem concerning. Please be aware this is a result of the wider reporting of all positive tests from a wider variety of sources (Pillar Two) than was previously available. It is not about the actual number of cases increasing.
Once this information is published, we will make sure that a link is available so Barnsley residents can access this publicly available data.