A major incident has been declared in Sussex to give emergency services more tools to deal with increasing rates of coronavirus.
The Sussex Resilience Forum (SRF) which co-ordinates and communicates between health, emergency services and local authorities, says its partners are satisfied they are currently managing extra demands but need to plan for the likelihood that pressures will increase in the coming weeks.
Declaring a major incident means the SRF can make more use of volunteer help, preparing in detail for extra capacity needed across services and considering requests for extra support from national government if necessary.
In particular, it wants to ensure the programme of vaccination to Sussex residents can continue.
The latest figures for Brighton and Hove show that in the seven days to 2 January, there were 1,991 cases, a rate per 100,000 of 684.1.
This is more than twelve times the rate to 30 November, which was 55.7.
Assistant Chief Constable Dave Miller, from the Sussex Resilience Forum, said: “Our focus, as ever, is on working together to protect people in Sussex in every way we can.
“The pressures on the whole system of health and social care are facing this winter are unprecedented and while our services are managing, we know that challenges are only likely to increase in the short term.
“By declaring a major incident, we can put ourselves on the strongest possible footing to combine our efforts and resources to keep people and public services in the best possible health.”
Brighton and Hove council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty said: “I welcome the collective decision to declare a major incident across the Sussex region which reflects the seriousness of the situation.
“The new Covid-19 variant is spreading fast and the latest figures from the ONS survey show that roughly 1 in 45 people in the South East have got the virus.
“Declaring a major incident means partner organisations across Sussex will further strengthen efforts to fight this pandemic.
“I want to thank staff from the council and public services across Brighton & Hove and the wider Sussex region for all that they are doing on the front line to help save lives, support local communities and keep our vital public services going.
“Thank you as well to residents who are also playing their part, and staying at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.”
In his weekly statement sent out this afternoon, Brighton and Hove’s director of public health Alistair Hill said: “Covid-19 is spreading rapidly in Brighton and Hove.
“The weekly number of positive tests is now more than 10 times higher than at the end of November. Every age group and every part of our city is affected.
“The latest national ONS survey shows that roughly 1 in 45 people in the South East have got the virus.
“Sadly more people are becoming very ill, hospital admissions are increasing fast and more local people will die as a result of the virus.
“In order to save lives it is absolutely vital that we break the chain of transmission.
“Everyone must follow the rules of the lockdown and stay at home. If you are outside of your home you must adopt the measures necessary to prevent the spread of the virus: think hands – face – space.
“And while the roll out of the second Covid vaccine this week is good news, I ask you all to be patient. The NHS is working to a priority list of those most at risk first, and those who work closest with them.
“Please do not contact the NHS to get a vaccine. You will be contacted when it’s your turn.”
The SRF agreed to declare the incident from 2pm today. A major incident is a recognition of national demand and puts all agencies in Sussex in the best possible position to come together to tackle the virus.
It is a well-recognised and rehearsed escalation that can be expected at times of exceptional need – a major incident was also in place during the summer of 2020.
The SRF decision recognised the strong and connected pressures across the entire health and care system, from 999 calls to hospital admissions, clinical treatment, discharge from hospital, community services and provision in care homes.
SRF partners are satisfied that they are currently managing the extra demands on the system but agree that they must now make plans for the likelihood that pressures will increase still further in coming weeks.
The SRF thanked the vast majority of the public in Sussex who are doing everything they can to help the NHS keep the infection under control. Everyone is asked to follow the Covid rules and protect each other; stay at home wherever possible, wash your hands regularly, keep your distance from people you don’t live with and if you develop symptoms, self-isolate immediately and book a test.
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