DORSET Council has given the latest update on Covid-19 in Dorset in an online question and answer session with residents.

Leading the discussion was Director of Public Health Dorset, Sam Crowe and Chief Executive of Dorset Council, Matt Prosser.

During the meeting, which focused on Dorset rather than BCP specifically, both Mr Crowe and Mr Prosser provided updates on Dorset’s coronavirus situation and Sam answered questions submitted by residents.

At the beginning of the meeting, Mr Crowe detailed how there was a steep rise in coronavirus cases at the beginning of October, which is believed to be a combination of colder weather, higher infection rates and return of schools and colleges.

Despite this increase, Dorset Council remains at tier one within the three-tier framework.

Mr Crowe said: “I am glad to say that after seeing that steep rise in the first two weeks of October it does look as though infections are starting to settle down. We are in a reasonable place.”

The increase in recent weeks is believed to be a result of transmission within a household, which is a main pattern in the Dorset Council areas.

The subject of tiers was also discussed later thanks to a resident question.

The resident asked: “If we moved to a higher tier how would that work and how is the decision made? Would it be pan Dorset or separate situation for Dorset vs BCP?”

In response, Mr Crowe detailed how if Dorset were to move to a higher tier, any decision would be made with discussion with the government.

He also mentioned the Health Protection Board which works across both Dorset Council and BCP Council areas.

This board comes together regularly to view the Covid-19 data which is then discussed.

Mr Crowe said: “If cases continue to rise, we will work with the local outbreak board to consider whether moving to a higher tier is necessary. It would be important that this is a considered decision and not something that is required or imposed at very short notice.”

If case rates were very different between the two council areas, it’s possible that we could see BCP Council and Dorset Council being at different alert levels.

Mr Crowe added: “The impression I get is that the government is looking for consistency, recognising that many people live in one area and travel to work in another. If we see a rise in not just Dorset Council but other councils in the South West, we may be looking at a regional discussion about moving to tier two.”

The final question of the night asked whether Dorset Council is offering local test and trace.

According to Mr Crowe, there have been lots of discussions with the regional health protection team about this issue and it has been decided, for now, not to do local test and trace.

Mr Crowe said: “This is because we work very closely with the regional health protection team to follow-up high risk settings such as care homes, and that is working really well.”

The current completion rates in the Dorset Council area for following up on positive cases are in-excess of 70 per cent and the completion rate for following up on the contacts of those cases is also around 70 per cent.

 This also includes 15 per cent in both categories that are still going through the system.

Mr Crowe added: "It's important we don't duplicate or confuse what is happening with the national test and trace service. For now, we are not taking on local test and trace, but we are regularly having that discussion if things change.”