Locally-led coronavirus plan more likely to succeed, says Liverpool health chief

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A locally-led plan to combat a rising number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in an area of Liverpool is “much more likely” to succeed than nationally imposed measures, the city’s public health chief has said.

The “enhanced outbreak control action plan” was set up for Princes Park after almost half of the increase in confirmed cases across Liverpool last week were in the ward.

Community volunteers are going door to door to raise awareness of testing availability and to promote key public health messages, while a pop-up walk-in test centre is also available.

Other measures include the suspension of forthcoming gatherings and events in the area, the continued closure of community buildings, and those shielding being advised to continue doing so for another fortnight.

Matt Ashton, director of public health for Liverpool, said he does not want to see a more draconian lockdown in the area after restrictions were imposed on large parts of northern England last week.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a locally-led imposition of measures to try and control the virus at an earlier stage and therefore avoid the need for a national lockdown.

“I think trust is a massive issue here. I just don’t think we have trust in the national system for people to tell us what we need to do. Therefore we are much more likely to have success if we lead this locally, if we use our community champions and leaders, our faith leaders and our volunteers, and use people who actually understand the area, live and work in the area and get the message across that way.”

Ashton said he believes the increase in cases at Princes Park – one of the most deprived wards in the city – is due to “multi-generational transmission”, where young people are going into small, multi-occupancy houses and spreading the virus.

He said the response from the community to the new measures has been “phenomenal”.

“It’s because of the approach I think we are desperately trying to take which is with and through our communities, not doing stuff to our communities,” he said.

“It’s not easy this, we know how difficult the pandemic has been to control for every city in the country for every country around the world.

“I think numbers will go up before they come down the other side.”

The Princes Park measures will be reviewed in a fortnight and extended if necessary.

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