There has been a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases across Cheshire & Merseyside. Cases in the sub-region are increasing at such a rapid pace that Merseyside has now been identified as an area of concern on the national government watchlist.

Local authority teams and partners are working hard to implement effective plans, but Directors of Public Health are deeply concerned they do not have the essential tools to tackle an escalating pandemic.

Cheshire & Merseyside Directors of Public Health are alarmed that access to testing in the sub-region is limited. Some residents are being asked to travel to other parts of the country to get a COVID-19 test and not all symptomatic residents are able to access a test. This poses a significant threat to the health and wellbeing of the residents of Cheshire and Merseyside.

Directors of Public Health understand that there is a national issue with laboratory capacity and efforts are being made to rectify this situation over the coming weeks but we would ask that immediate action is taken. We will work closely with the Cheshire and Merseyside Testing group to make the most of the testing capacity available to our residents.

Additional testing capacity is essential to help prevent further spread of the virus in Cheshire and Merseyside but also the North West. Currently our North West region has 25% of the COVID-19 national cases and yet has access to only 15% of the national testing capacity.

Directors of Public Health are also concerned about resources to effectively lead locally supported contact tracing. Local areas are being asked to consider taking on the follow-up of cases that the national test and trace system cannot reach. Without any further resources, we will find it incredibly difficult to deal with the additional cases, let alone pursue the close contacts of those cases.

Directors of Public Health and teams are already at full capacity. We would like to request that the appropriate resources are given to local authorities to ensure we have the capacity to deal with the cases that the national system cannot reach and close contacts.

Our teams and partners have been working incredibly hard to keep our residents safe and we now require the testing capacity and funding for locally supported contact tracing to be available so we can continue to protect the communities we serve.

While hospital admissions are currently low, we know from places like France and Spain that as cases rise so do hospital admissions and deaths. We want to be able to protect our most vulnerable and the economy, avoiding nationally imposed restrictions.

The Directors of Public Health are also encouraging all residents to play their part and unite together against COVID-19. This is a critical moment in our fight together to halt the spread of the virus in Cheshire and Merseyside.