Coronavirus (COVID 19): Advisory Subgroup on Public Health Threat Assessment minutes: 12 August 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the Advisory Sub-Group on Public Health Threat Assessment, held on 12 August 2020.

Items and actions

1. Welcome and Apologies

The chair welcomed members to the fifth meeting of the group and invited Monica Doyle, new to the group, to introduce herself.

Apologies ­: Andrew Buist, Iona Colvin, David Connell, Andrew Cowie, Julia Egan, Joanna MacDonald, Christine McLaughlin, Nicola Steedman, Jacqui Reilly, Jacqui Semple

2. Minutes of the previous meeting 

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.

3. Proposal for 2020 vaccination programme

The Chair thanked members for the feedback and comments on the group’s draft advice.

The Chair suggested that the work of the group should be near to completion by the end of the week.

The Chair suggested that there should be one more meeting following an expected update to Parliament by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport on Wednesday 19 August.

It was highlighted that the CMO had sent a letter on 7 August advising NHS health boards to prepare for the vaccination programme.

It was also highlighted that if there were vaccinations available following provision to the higher-risk groups there may be the opportunity to progress to the lower aged group ie 50 – 54-years-old.

The group were told that vaccines had been purchased to correspond to a 75% uptake of flu vaccinations by Health and Social Care Workers. 

The Chair highlighted that GPs would need assistance to deliver the flu vaccination programme and that boards needed to look at all the options in relation to location and workforce. 

It was highlighted to the group that Covid-19 assessment centres where face-to-face consultation takes place are often not large premises; currently there are 43 across Scotland but the number is expected to increase as winter approaches.

It was highlighted that the Scottish Government has an Extended Flu Vaccination and Covid-19 Vaccination Programme Board working on delivery.

The group were also told that the Scottish Government is writing to NHS Health boards to highlight that they will need to work with GPs to deliver an extended vaccination programme.

The Chair noted that the group should communicate its ambition – that as many people as possible are vaccinated against flu in Winter 2020/21.

4. Initial report on preparing for a winter emergency

The Chair asked for comments on the group’s draft report.

The group had a discussion about epidemiological profile of the current Coronavirus and how the virus reacts in relation to seasons. It was noted that most transmissions are occurring indoors rather than outdoors.

(a) Update on remobilisation plans/SG winter preparedness

The group was given an update on NHS health board remobilisation plans and the Scottish Government’s winter preparedness planning.

The group discussed the balance of risk in relation to reducing physical distancing between people in primary and secondary care settings and the separate challenges associated with 1 metre and 2 metre distancing.

It was explained to the group that in any winter period, elective appointments are reduced in order to cope with a surge of patients because of flu. There is currently a focus on a greater number of patients being seen before winter. It was highlighted that planning is underway if there should be a surge due to Covid-19.

The Chair highlighted that he had spoken with the Clinical Director about he and his team’s involvement in winter planning by NHS Health boards.

The group was told that the Scottish Government planned to run a winter event in September and information roadshows around the redesign of urgent care. It was noted that the different “Covid pathways” were being looked at and NHS health boards were eager to share information on this.

(b) Asymptomatic Cases

The group had a discussion about asymptomatic cases and spread. The importance of the Test & Protect scheme was highlighted in order to reduce transmission.

The group agreed to highlight the importance of the testing programme and isolating in relation to reducing the spreads of Covid-19.

It was highlighted to the group that asymptomatic transmission could not have been anticipated in the early stages of the pandemic.

5. AOB and date of next meeting

The Chair indicated that he would update the group’s report on preparing for a winter emergency and submit it to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, in advance of her planned update to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 19 August.

The group agreed it would not meet w/c 17 August

The group tentatively agreed to have a meeting on Wednesday 26 August.

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