Council leader calls for greater access to localised Covid-19 data

PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 July 2020

The leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, Cllr Steve Count, has called for greater access to localised Covid-19 data.

The leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, Cllr Steve Count, has called for greater access to localised Covid-19 data.

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The leader of Cambridgeshire County Council has called for greater access to localised Covid-19 data.

Council leader, Steve Count, has said there are “incredibly rich veins that we could be mining” for information that will feed into the county’s pandemic response.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s General Purposes Committee received an update on the impact of the virus on Tuesday (July 14).

Concerns were also raised about the timeliness of data which reveals the impact of the virus across the county.

A council report shows the number of confirmed cases is dropping across the county since a peak in late April and early May.

The recent publication of Pillar 2 testing data – compliled from drive-in test centres and home testing – shows Huntingdonshire’s cumulative number of recorded cases is above the national average.

The cumulative rate of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population in Huntingdonshire was 491.7 as of July 6, which a county council report said is “statistically significantly higher than the national rate”.

The chief executive of the county council, Gillian Beasley, reassured councillors that the Pillar 2 data covers “the whole of the pandemic since testing began, it’s not the current situation”.

She said: “The number of new coronavirus cases in Cambridgeshire remains low. And none of the districts are causing specific concerns to public health at this point”.

Although she warned “coronavirus has not gone away”.

The leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, councillor Lucy Nethsingha, questioned the timeliness of the data, arguing residents need that information “to make sensible decisions,” and criticising the speed at which the government has released the data.

Referencing Huntingdonshire, Cllr Nethsingha said: “It’s really quite concerning that that information is only coming to us now, and I think there are huge concerns about the way that the track and trace system is working and the speed at which lockdown is easing in relation to how quickly that information is coming down to councils”.

She added: “It’s absolutely critical that that information gets out to the public as quickly as we can because members of the public have been told that they should be going out and getting the economy restarted and going to pubs, and members of the public in the shielded category have been told they can stop shielding.

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“They really desperately need accurate up-to-date information about the level of risk in their area”.

“I do remain very concerned about the speed at which information is coming down from central government to local areas so that individuals can make sensible decisions about their own behaviour,” she said.

The leader of the council, Conservative Steve Count, said the information had been shared with councillors ahead of the meeting, and he encouraged councillors to pass on information in their own areas.

But Cllr Count said he too wants more data about the situation Cambridgeshire.

He said: “I would appreciate just like you the information from government coming out and us being able to see in much greater detail”.

He said Cambridgeshire has been “relatively successful in some of our efforts to get data”, saying the county is expecting to participate in a pilot project which will see it receiving more information.

“There are other areas that we are lobbying government for, not just for Cambridgeshire, but we believe this should be more accessible nationally,” he said.

Cllr Count said he wants the county to have access to track and trace, workplace and schools’ Covid-19 data.

He said in addition to postcode data from testing, he said: “things like the workplace address that could be easily downloadable for local insight and surveillance would be really appreciated.

“We would also like access the data used by the track and trace system, and there’s other types of data as well, for example the schools send a massive amount of information on a regular basis about cases and bubbles to government.

“But we are not getting that filtered back down to us for us to use locally, and we think there is incredible rich veins that we could be mining there for the benefit of ourselves.

“So we are continuing with that lobbying, we understand the concerns about how it’s used and the anonymity.

“Sometimes the concerns are more about the granularity of the data – is it actually useful at that level if Public Health England or the NHS give out too much information.

“Those are conversations that are going on at the moment”.


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