SUNDERLAND City Council has set out its approach to preventing and managing future COVID-19 outbreaks.

The Government asked local authorities to develop local control plans and said councils must publish their plans by the end of June 2020.

The City Council’s COVID-19 Control Plan can now be read: HERE.

It outlines how outbreaks would be managed in care homes, schools, workplaces and other high risk places. The plan’s aims and objectives are to help protect the city’s vulnerable population, help manage test and trace, help minimise and reduce transmission, and prevent increased demand on NHS and healthcare services.

Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller, who will chair the Outbreak Control Board, said: “In the longer-term, this City Council and its partners are already committed to tackle and reduce the health inequalities that have put Sunderland residents at greater risk of COVID.

“In the shorter-term, we have now published our Control Plan setting out the ways and means of how we contain and prevent COVID from spreading if we have outbreaks. The health, safety and well-being of our residents is always the key priority for this City Council. Throughout this pandemic and lockdown, we have continued to run front-line services, support our NHS and an army of public sector staff and volunteers have done everything they can to support our communities.

“As we come out of lockdown, the risk of a second wave is very real. We must all work together on prevention and, if it happens, we will all work together on containing it.”

If there is an outbreak, the plan has a five Es approach to:

• Engage – by contacting residents where the outbreak occured.

• Explain – advice and guidance on prevention and/or control.

• Encourage – control measures such as isolation for care home residents, support for infection control activities and, if necessary, reviewing safety measures.

• Escalate – work with more regional and national authorities, such as if workplace or school closures are being contemplated and where the incident or outbreak has the potential to impact on the wider community or economy.

• Enforce – consider and use enforcement powers where the setting is unable or unwilling to begin prevention and/or control measures.

Under pre-COVID legislation, such as the 1984 Public Health Act, the council already has a range of powers to help protect health, such as powers to close offices and workplaces.

Gillian Gibson, Sunderland’s Director of Public Health, said: “There are already strong health partnerships across Sunderland between the City Council, Public Health England, the NHS, our education sector and with businesses.

“Now, our plan builds on those links and strengthens them. A local plan allows us to be more targeted and tailored in our local response to containing COVID-19.”

Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Councillor Dr Geoff Walker said: “We can already all help prevent further outbreaks by following the simple advice of good hand and face hygiene, face coverings when at the shops or on public transport, and by social distancing.

“We all have a role to play in protecting ourselves, our familes and friends, and our city.”

Sunderland’s first case of COVID-19 was identified on Saturday 7 March.

Last month the City Council’s Cabinet backed a longer-term strategy to continue working on reducing health inequalities which have put residents at greater risk of the virus.