Revealed: How Edinburgh City Council tackles Covid-19 outbreaks

Details of how Edinburgh City Council deals with Covid-19 outbreaks have been released to the public for the first time, shedding light on how the authority is tackling the pandemic.

Edinburgh City Council's response to Covid-19 outbreaks has been made public for the first time
Edinburgh City Council's response to Covid-19 outbreaks has been made public for the first time

Documents detail the levels of severity at which outbreaks are placed, who finds out details about the outbreaks, and who is in charge of decision making when attempting to suppress further spread of coronavirus in the city,

The plans, released through freedom of information rules, have been released after a five month transparency battle from this newspaper after the council claimed their release would be “prejudicial to the effective of public affairs” despite the threat of a second wave.

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The disclosure also confirms the council did not undertake any impact or risk assessments linked with a potential second wave of Covid-19 back in July, just two months before the Capital was plunged into renewed restrictions as Covid-19 took hold of the city for a second time.

The technical documents detail the council’s immediate response to a Covid-19 outbreak, including when a case is confirmed within its own staff.

If an incident involves a council staff member suspected to have Covid-19, the individual is sent home and told to “wear face covering immediately, including in particular on public transport”.

Following the identification of an outbreak, a ‘problem assessment group’ (PAG) is convened to judge how serious the situation is and what the threat to the wider public is or already has been.

This is chaired and led by a member of the NHS Lothian health protection team and includes a representative from the council’s environmental health service.

It can also include members of organisations such as Police Scotland “as appropriate”.

The ‘PAG’ then decides whether the outbreak is important enough to justify the creation of the more well-known ‘incident management team’ (IMT), chaired by public health professionals and feed back to Scottish Government ministers, the council, and other interested parties.

The IMT also decides whether specific local responses must take place such as the closure of schools, or public buildings, or wider communications to the public to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

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It will also judge what the level of severity of the outbreak is, ranging from level one: “limited local impact” with just the immediate people likely to be impacted, to level five: “catastrophic impact” with a “major ongoing impact on public health”.

Scotland as a whole is technically considered to be under level five, with individual outbreaks sitting in the intermediate levels.

The documents state: “Outbreak management follows an established process of investigation to establish all the circumstances of any incident.

"This process includes investigation of: epidemiological data; the source (this may include laboratory investigation); and the method or environmental reason for the exposure.

"This will be complemented by a risk assessment to determine interventions or control measures that have to be put in place to minimise the impact and the development of communications to explain what has happened and what to do next.”

Local responses such as mobile testing units and extensive contact tracing are then put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Edinburgh City Council was contacted for comment.

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