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Royal Borough 'cautiously optimistic' on COVID-19 case rate

Case numbers are starting to decline and vulnerable children will be fed during February half term, councillors heard this week.

At an outbreak engagement board meeting yesterday (Monday), members discussed the council’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Members heard how there was room for some ‘cautious optimism’ as cases in the borough start to slowly decline, but an investigation is ongoing as to why Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury has seen a spike in infections.

The meeting also heard how all vulnerable children will be receiving a £15 food voucher to February half term, although a guarantee could not be made that all children would receive a laptop for remote learning.

At the meeting, members heard how in the seven days between January 4 and January 10, 608 people took a COVID-19 test, with 14 per cent of them testing positive. The number of confirmed cases over those seven days was 817, with an infection rate of 435 per 100,000.

Councillors also saw a breakdown of cases per ward, with infection rates generally ranging from 300 per 100,000 to 800 per 100,000.

However, the infection rate in Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury was considerably higher over the seven-day period, at 1127 per 100,000.

Anna Richards, Royal Borough consultant in public health, said the decline in case rates was a cause for ‘cautious optimism’, and added that investigations were ongoing over the cases in Datchet.

She said: “We are looking in more depth at the data for Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury, just to understand why in the last couple of weeks we have seen slightly larger number of cases and a higher case rate.

“We’ll look in a bit more detail to understand who’s testing positive and to look at some of the demographics around those cases, to see if we can get a bit more information and any additional control measures that we can put in place to bring that transition rate down lower.”

Meanwhile, the meeting also heard from Kevin McDaniel, Royal Borough director of children’s services, about how schools and children are handling the pandemic.

He started by saying that the Royal Borough will be providing £15 vouchers for children who usually get free school meals.

He said: “The meal voucher scheme is now on, schools have been given permission to order vouchers for the next four weeks.

“When planning our winter support scheme we had already planned to provide £15-worth of vouchers during the February half term, we have committed to doing that.”

When asked if he could guarantee that all children in the borough, Mr McDaniel said he could not promise it.

He said: “As much as I would love to guarantee it, I can’t give that guarantee.

“Thew DoE has made available an additional 300,000 devices across the country, they’ve allocated a number of devices to every school.

“Most of our schools have taken up every single one of those devices and targeted them to the children they believe to be most in need.

“A number of those schools have indicated that there are still one or two children they are looking for devices for, after they deployed the devices from the department and their own equipment.”

Mr McDaniel went on to encourage anyone with suitable spare devices to donate them to one of the schemes, like the BBC’s Give a Laptop campaign. Visit bbc.in/3qDZxV3 to find out more.

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