Council planning for a second wave of coronavirus

Plans are being made by the Isle of Wight Council to counter any second wave of coronavirus.

At a meeting of the council’s corporate scrutiny committee, director of public health for the Island, Simon Bryant, said it was likely there would be a second wave of the infection but was unable to say how high the spike could be or how long it will go on for.

He said: “We are trying to understand the spread of infection in the first wave, how it was spreading, and a number of factors will affect whether there is a second wave and how high that is, including the prevalence of infection we have in the community.

“We have managed really well in the first wave, with extremely good work to ensure that wave was low.

“The NHS was able to manage so we are working in the same way with the right plans in place to manage a second wave — so the NHS and our communities are able to cope and the spread of infections is minimised.”

Local authorities have been asked by government to prepare local outbreak control plans, getting a share of £300 million to do so, which plans ways the council will be able to deal with any spike, second wave or outbreaks that appear across the Island — a potential local lockdown, instead of nationally.

Chief executive of the council, John Metcalfe, said the government was very much moving to local plans so the council would use its public and environmental health powers to manage the outbreaks.

He said: “We have also been working very closely with care homes, producing a care home support plan which went to the government at the end of May, to ensure they have sufficient resources to contain the spread of the virus and manage an outbreak.

“The challenge we are going to get across the next few months is how much effort we put into recovery and how much into response because I see it being a balancing act.

“We will be wanting to recover as much as we can but as soon as we start to get outbreaks we will need to go back to response mode.”

However, if there is a second wave, the council’s financial forecast, which includes an almost £10 million funding gap, doesn’t assume there is one — so no estimates can be made to any further trouble this pandemic can bring to an already precarious financial position.

Mr Metcalfe said if there was a second wave, an emergency budget would be made, although discussions have been had with government about further funding if it were to come. As it stands, council officers believe any further funding from central government would be unlikely.

Cllr Michael Lilley requested the cabinet report back to the next committee meeting with strategies and plans for a second wave, including health and economic aspects.

However, Cllr Chris Quirk, said it would be incumbent for cabinet to be doing that already but felt ‘senior scientific opinion doesn’t believe in the second wave and is something largely invented by journalists’.