Questions around local outbreaks and lockdowns

See the answer to the most popular questions about outbreaks and lockdowns in West Sussex.

Other frequently asked questions, including how to keep safe, testing and community support for the vulnerable, are available on the right.

What is the Local Outbreak Control Plan?

How national, regional and local organisations will work together is explained in the Local Outbreak Control Plan. This states how we will:

  • prevent the spread of the virus
  • protect residents and support the most vulnerable
  • respond to any outbreaks in West Sussex.

The plan covers:

  • managing outbreaks in West Sussex care homes and schools
  • planning prevention and outbreak management strategies for other high-risk places, locations and communities
  • local testing capacity
  • contact tracing in complex settings
  • data
  • governance.

Planning to prevent and respond to cases of COVID-19 in our communities requires a whole system and multi-agency approach and includes the government’s national Test and Trace Programme.

A wide range of stakeholders have contributed and commented on the plan and will continue to shape its development. This includes district and borough councils across the county, Healthwatch West Sussex, Public Health England South East region and the NHS.

Why do councils need separate plans?

Each council knows its own area and communities and is experienced in dealing with outbreaks of infectious diseases - not just coronavirus. 

Public Health have previously worked with partners to deal with measles, meningitis and E. coli outbreaks. All local authorities’ plans have a similar structure.

There are three boards or groups, designed to manage the process smoothly: 

  • COVID-19 Health Protection Board.
  • Local Outbreak Engagement Board.
  • Local Resilience Forum, which includes the Multi-Agency Information Group.

What happens if there is an outbreak in the community?

The precise actions that will be taken will depend on the size and setting of the outbreak. As soon as an outbreak is declared, Public Health England notifies the local authority. Where many partners need to work together, an Outbreak Control Team is formed to identify and agree on intervention measures to be taken to stop the spread before it escalates any further.

A toolkit of infection control measures is set out in the Local Outbreak Control Plan. These include:

  • advising on hygiene practices
  • implementing public health measures
  • providing focused testing right through to localised lockdown (in conjunction with Public Health England).

The action that is taken will depend on the severity of the outbreak and the most appropriate response.

What do local lockdowns entail?

Lockdown restrictions which reduce contact between people and the risk of infection can include:

  • having less contact with other people from outside of your household
  • avoiding non-essential travel
  • closing non-essential shops
  • closing hotels and places of worship
  • closing schools or early years centres, if needed, but keeping them open to key workers and vulnerable children.

Who decides if a local lockdown is needed?

This depends on the rate of increase and the number of people with infections. A single premises with a coronavirus cluster is likely to be closed temporarily by the County Council’s Director of Public Health and the Health and Safety Executive and must legally remain shut.

These powers have been used previously to deal with salmonella or Legionnaires' disease outbreaks. If there is evidence of a bigger coronavirus outbreak in a town or region, several organisations will consider the response.

Both local and national government have legal powers to trigger local lockdown restrictions.

Last updated:
15 January 2021
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