Authorities in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent have declared a ‘major incident’ as they continue to tackle the coronavirus pandemic locally.
Emergency services and the public sector in the county – which together form the Staffordshire Resilience Forum (SRF) – said the COVID-19 outbreak had led to ‘unprecedented demand for multi-agency activity, which is beyond the scope of business-as usual operations’.
As of yesterday, Tuesday March 24, nine people in Stoke-on-Trent had been confirmed to have the virus, along with 76 in the rest of Staffordshire – although due to limited testing the actual figure for both areas is likely to be far higher.
Dr Richard Harling, the Director for Health and Care at Staffordshire County Council is chairing the Strategic Coordinating Group, which is overseeing the multi-agency response.
He said: “Everyone is now aware that we are facing a unique challenge, with the Government addressing the nation on a daily basis.
“Declaring a Major Incident now is a way of making sure all public sector agencies and our partners can work together, share resources where necessary, and better anticipate and deal with challenges.
“It is something we prepare for and practice regularly. It does not confer any special powers or change the roles of the different organisations involved.
“This is a sensible step as we know from other countries that dealing with Coronavirus/COVID-19 is going to take time and persistence.
“Pooling resources is important because we know we will face challenges, particularly the likelihood that more staff will be self-isolating in the coming weeks and that will strain resources. We will be better able to do things jointly, such as and informing people in relation to any particular localised issues.
“Working together is something that we do all the time in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and the action we are now taking is simply aimed at making that process even more joined-up.”
“It is important that people continue following the advice from Public Health England and the Government.”
As of yesterday morning 422 people had died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK.
Two pieces of emergency legislation – the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the Contingencies Fund Act 2020 – have been granted royal assent, as the government continues to tackle the pandemic.
In his daily briefing Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country is coping “very well” in the face of the “most challenging circumstances”.
Replying to a question about how well the country was coping, Mr Johnson said that “never in our history has the Goverment put its arms around people in the way we are doing now to help them get through this time”.
He added that a tailored package of support would be announced on Thursday to help self-employed people.
The PM said: “I do think when you look at the sheer scale of what the Government is doing to get this country through, we will cope and are coping very well indeed under the most challenging possible circumstances.
“To come out of it well together as I know we can, we all need to follow the instructions the Government have given and to stay at home, protect the NHS and that’s the way to save lives.”
Boris Johnson said 405,000 people have volunteered to help vulnerable people in the coronavirus national effort.
The Prime Minister said he wanted to offer a “special thank you to everyone who has now volunteered to help the NHS”.
“When we launched the appeal last night, we hoped to get 250,000 volunteers over a few days.
“But I can tell you that in just 24 hours, 405,000 people have responded to the call.”
Mr Johnson said: “They will be absolutely crucial in the fight against this virus. That is already, in one day, as many volunteers as the population of Coventry.
“And so to all of you, and to all the former NHS staff who are coming back now into the service, I say thank you on behalf of the entire country.”
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said coronavirus will be a “close run thing” for the NHS and said the Government was expecting the demand for critical care beds to rise in the next fortnight.
He said: “At this point of time, as of today, there is not enormous pressure on critical care compared to a bad or even a normal winter’s day in the NHS, for example.
“But we expect the demand for critical care beds to continue to rise over the next two weeks.
“That’s entirely what we expect to happen and that’s what will happen over that time.
“Clearly demand is going to go up because of coronavirus.
“Because of the actions people are taking and provided everyone keeps the social distancing measures, which are very difficult in terms of staying within households, that will help to pull down the demand a very long way.
“At the same time, the NHS is increasing supply by either a combination of pushing out in time things that can be postponed and increasing the critical care, and particularly the ventilated bed capacity, over the next weeks.
“This is going to be a close run thing, we all know that. Anybody who looks around the world can see this is going to be difficult for every health system.”
Worldwide there have been more than 450,000 confirmed cases and 20,400 deaths across 181 countries and territories – with another 113,000 people recovering.
More than 7,500 people have died in Italy and another 3,400 in Spain.