Covid outbreaks reported in care homes in Luton and Leighton Buzzard
Care homes in Luton and Leighton Buzzard have reported a return of Covid-19 cases, as efforts continue to get young people vaccinated, a meeting heard.
Infection rates in Luton yesterday (Thursday) were slightly above the east of England average at 313 cases per 100,000 population, according to the borough council's interim director of public health Sally Cartwright.
"This is a shift from the last three weeks from being below those averages and we're now just skirting above," she told the local authority's health and wellbeing board.
"The highest number of cases are in the 20- to 29-year-old age group, but we're also seeing a gradual increase in older ages," she explained.
"We're seeing cases at the moment in care homes in the borough which we haven't seen for a while during this perod of the pandemic, which is a little worrying."
The public health team is working with the BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) trying to increase vaccination uptake in the borough.
"In Luton we still have lower than desired vaccination uptake rates," she said. "If people are struggling with transport, there's a free taxi service they can call upon which we're promoting across the borough.
"We'll get some support from the national team in talking to people, knocking on doors, and having a conversation about the vaccines, initially targeting that in South ward and Dallow ward where there's a particularly low uptake.
"It's just to have conversations with people to encourage vaccination."
Healthwatch Luton chairman Phil Turner asked why there were suddenly cases in care homes, saying he was also aware of some in Leighton Buzzard.
"It's quite unfortunate and surprising," she replied. "We had a meeting this week to look at the outbreaks and all the measures in place, and to check everyone's still taking the right precautions.
"We've an outbreak management team to check with the care homes whether they have personal protective equipment (PPE) and that their infection control measures are operating.
"There's nothing specific picked up during those converstations which we can pinpoint.
"I don't have an answer other than the increasing rates and the delta virus being more infectious.
"We're at that point now where there's enough circulating that it's entering into the care homes again.
"We're looking at vaccination rates in care homes and working with their managers to increase uptake of the vaccine in their staff," she added.
"A very high proportion of residents are vaccinated, but there are still a substantial number of staff who aren't.
"We know there's mandatory vaccination for care home staff coming in with a timeline to have the first jab towards the end of September."
Director of clinical transformation for BLMK CCG and Luton GP Dr Nina Pearson, who chaired the meeting, said: "My awareness was raised more this week as it's not just the people who work in care homes, but anyone.
"So a contractor, nursing staff and GPs will need to be double vaccinated in order to go in. It's more than just the staff working in that environment."
Ms Cartwright said: "Care homes are having more visitors now. There were no visitors at all, which had its own problems. People were very isolated and it was really challenging.
"So there's a balance between visitors and allowing visits out, and infection control. I hope we don't get to a point where that has to be stopped again."