Public health chief Jim McManus has praised the actions of Hertfordshire residents in taking action to control Covid-19 – but warned that the county will not be ‘Covid-free’ in the next year.

During a debate on the county’s plans to deal with a ‘local outbreak’ of the virus,  Mr McManus said it was the county’s residents who had been the “real heroes” through the outbreak.

But he stressed the need for measures such as social distancing and hygiene – as well as ‘track and trace’ – to continue, as the virus continues to circulate.

“The people of Hertfordshire have been brilliant throughout this epidemic,” he said.

“The reason we have got the virus under control to the extent that we have is because of the way people of Hertfordshire undertook social distancing, did the hygiene, did the measures.

“They have been the real heroes right throughout this epidemic – at considerable cost.

“What we need them to do now is continue to do that brilliant work of engaging with ‘track and trace’.

“Because if they do that they are the biggest thing we have to combat this virus. And without them anything we do will simply  not work.”

The 62-page ‘Covid-19 Hertfordshire Local Outbreak Plan’ sets out how agencies in Hertfordshire will monitor and respond to local outbreaks and infection rates.

It considers areas of work such as prevention, data monitoring, testing and contact tracing.

And it was backed by a meeting of the county council’s special cabinet panel on Thursday (July 2).

What are the rates?
  • According to data presented to the panel, by June 14 there had been 2954 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the county – which is a rate of 24.8 per 10,000 population.
  • The rate was highest is Watford, where there were 43.3 cases per 10,000, followed by Hertsmere where there were 37.9 per 10,000.
  • The rate was lowest in North Herts and in East Herts , where there were 17.5 and 17.8 cases per 10,000 population respectively.

Speaking at the meeting – just two days before the pubs reopened – Mr McManus reported that there was already an increase in cases in th UK, which was expected following the easing of ‘lockdown’ measures.

He stressed that the virus was still in circulation and the highlighted the impact of social distancing on reducing infection.

Being two metres away from another person, he said,  was 10 times safer than one metre.

And he stressed advice was still to remain at a distance of two metres, unless there was a need to reduce this to one metre with ‘mitigation’ such as a face covering.

“We are seeing cases rise in the UK,” he said. “We have seen an uptake in cases in a number of areas.

“We always knew when we took lockdown off, we would get an increase in cases. But the more people abandon social distancing  the more cases we will get nationally.

“There is an assumption among some people that Covid has gone – it absolutely hasn’t.

“It is endemic in our population and it is here to stay until it either fizzles out and mutates into a milder form or we get a vaccine and everybody is vaccinated.”

At the meeting Mr McManus’ message was echoed by Cllr Tim Hutchings, the county council’s executive member for public health and prevention.

He said: “People in Hertfordshire have done a great job thus far – that’s why we are in a good position.

“But I want to reiterate the need for everybody to continue to be responsible, to continue to be sensible.”

Cllr Hutchings urged people to keep as far away from others as they  reasonably could.

And he suggested those returning to pubs ‘draw breath’ and think about what they are doing.

“You may not be the people who suffer most from Covid, but your parents will, your grandparents will  – so be very careful,” he said.

He also urged those with symptoms to be tested for Covid-19 as quickly as possible and for people to continue with hand-washing.