Covid : Tackling the Sedgemoor Spike

Town Council Leader ponders “Why us?!”

After a long time at the bottom of the Covid league tables, Sedgemoor suddenly finds itself right at the top. Above Hull and 4 places in Northern Ireland. Johnson.B (a Prime Minister) had announced ‘Freedom Day’, the economy was opening up and the leisure industry would lead the way. What could go wrong? Especially as the UK now has the best vaccination rates in Europe. Well, plenty it seems. Only a week ago Bridgwater Town Council was looking forward to its Covid Test Centre closing and reclaiming the Town Hall for the community. Now suddenly they’ve put a brake on that, stopped the closure and arranged a last minute extension due to the spike. Town Council leaders have not only met urgently with Health chiefs to get answers as to ‘why Bridgwater?’, the Town Mayor and the Council Leader have gone on local and national media to seek answers, address the issues and find solutions.

Current Covid dashboard shows spikes in Bridgwater and Brean

Town Council Leader, Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) speaking on Times Radio said “COVID numbers are rising across the South West, not just in Somerset. League Tables of course mean that someone has to be top, and this time it’s us. However, we  are in a sense victims of our own early success when we had very low rates. At the moment the Government is considering an Enhanced Response for areas such as ours. For instance there is to be a programme of vaccinations for all students at Bridgwater College starting on September 1st. We already have Covid Marshals in action around the district and they are working with Licensing and Environmental Health, visiting  premises and giving advice.”

Town Council Leader Brian Smedley

Why Us?

Cllr Smedley continued “But the question for us is in fact ‘why us’? They say it’s because we have a young population and we have nightclubs and pubs all re-opening. But that’s the same everywhere. We are of course a party town and looking around the county it does seem that Bridgwater is leading the way in getting back in the party mood. However, the problem is that people still need to keep the risks and the freedoms in perspective. The Government has fired the starting pistol with their ‘Freedom Day’ to get the  economy opening up but that just put the decision making and risk taking back onto the people while sending the contrary message that it was ‘back to normal’. Well, it isn’t. People still need to be wary. On top of that it’s the height of the holiday season and our area is a very popular destination plus a travel-through location. It isn’t just Bridgwater, it’s nearby areas like the Brean coastal strip where there’s caravans a plenty, a vibrant hospitality industry and most importantly, daily transit of workers from here to there and back. “

Concluding the Council Leader said “On the positive side the rate is slowing and the hospitalisations remain low , as are numbers in ICU . As long as this correlation stays low then it’s a testament to the success of the vaccination implementation. We have 92,000  first vaccinations in Sedgemoor and 81,000 doubled vaccinated as of today. The trouble is that in the 15-34 age range there’s this significant spike. A major problem that’s led us here is this Government inspired cavalier idiocy around ‘Freedom day’. ”

Cllr Kathy Pearce (right) discusses matters with fellow town councillors

Get the Public Health Message Out

What does this mean in real terms? In fact with just 13 people going into hospital with Covid  from 9-15 August there was a general decrease at that point, down some -7.1% from the previous 7 days. At the same time there has been little change in terms of deaths with just 1 during that time. The forecast is that we may have reached the peak, that this will plateau and then hopefully drop as the final vaccination take up deflects the virus further,

Deputy Leader Cllr Kathy Pearce (Westover) said “We need to get the public health message out -be safe, stay safe, covid’s not on holiday even if you are. The key issue here is the vaccine gap. There’s a gap between the first and 2nd jabs in young people. The nighttime economy has opened up before young people have had their 2nd jabs. Across the country the vaccination rate is 94% but here it’s 86% dropping to 61% in the youth age range regarding second jabs. We have raised this directly with public health-and there must be a campaign to encourage people to have second jabs and even, in some cases, the first. Nightclubs maybe not protecting their staff well, they can be poorly ventilated. Can covid wardens do more? Can we encourage staff to take lateral flow tests?”

Town Mayor Leigh Redman urges people to ‘stay safe and follow the rules’

Town Hall Test Centre will stay open

Town Clerk David Mears said “Bridgwater Town Hall has hosted a COVID Testing Centre since November 2020. The current agreement expires on 6 September 2021. Due to recent data which shows that Bridgwater has the highest infection rate in England, Bridgwater Town Council has agreed an extension until Friday 17 September 2021. This will enable a new COVID Testing facility to be set-up to ensure the community are not left without this vital service.”

Mayor of Bridgwater, Cllr Leigh Redman (Hamp) recently spoke on BBC Radio to urge people to stay safe and follow  procedure. Today he has announced “This week, due to the high number of positive cases in our town, we were able to work with Public Health & NHS Testing to agree a short extension to allow time for the new site to be set up and opened. Testing at the Town Hall will continue  and NHS testing will have a new pop up test facility in place locally before then . BTC will continue to work with all partners to ensure we can play our part in keeping our communities safe. Please follow the guidance and get a vaccine if you are offered one.”

Victoria Centre Campaign Update

Cllr Mick Lerry campaigning to save medical facilities in Victoria

Further good news for campaigners to save the Victoria Park Medical centre from closure, ward Cllr Mick Lerry (Victoria) has been involved in negotiations with the Clinical Commissioning Group who took the recent closure decision and put out this statement. “We met with a representative from CCG last Thursday 19th August to discuss a recovery plan for the Medical Centre. It was decided that there would be a consultation with the stakeholders and community, regarding future provision of medical healthcare at the Victoria Park Community Centre. It was also decided that there was a need to reduce health inequalities in the Victoria Ward and surrounding area on the west side of Bridgwater. The consultation will commence soon and the CCG will be talking to other medical centres, regarding the reintroduction of a GP service. At the moment just over 5 thousand registered patients have been found and alternative GP Practice. There will be a healthcare service continuing at the VPCC medical centre, which might involve covid 19 testing and discussions are taking place. It was agreed by all present at the meeting that it was important to establish a GP Practice again at the Victoria Park, but at the moment it was important to establish a safe GP service for the registered patients, due to the shortage of Doctors”.

How to get a PCR Test

Town Leaders on an emergency zoom meeting with Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health, Somerset

You can get a free PCR test if you are displaying any of the following symptoms:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss of or change to your sense of smell or taste

You need to get the test done in the first 5 days of having symptoms.

If you have symptoms and need a test, you will need to book this prior to arriving. Please do not just turn up as you will be turned away.

New self-isolation guidance says that close contacts of a positive case who have received both doses of the vaccine no longer need to self-isolate, but are advised to get a PCR test even if they have no symptoms – PCR tests are no longer only for people with symptoms.

You can book a PCR test online or by phoning 119.