THE death rate in Herefordshire care homes increased last week according to official council data.

Up until May 19 there had been 42 deaths linked to Covid-19 in care homes in the county.

At the time, these deaths accounted for 44% of the total with 45% dying in acute hospital, 6% in community hospital, 3% at home address and 2% in a hospice.

An overview of the situation in care homes showed that there were 57 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among residents alongside 27 confirmed cases among staff.

At the time, there were seven residents and one member of staff displaying symptoms.

According to an internal council situation report there were 25 nursing homes and 13 residential care homes accepting admissions during this period.

The report noted that there has been an increase in the death rate in care homes this week, despite the death rate dropping at the Wye Valley NHS Trust.

Ross-on-Wye GP and clinical director Simon Lennane and mayor Daniel Lister said health services were aware of clusters of Covid-19 in the town and other parts of the county.

They issued a joint statement warning that national data was likely to significantly under-represented new cases of coronavirus as there was a lack of access to testing for everyone.

“Locally health services are aware of clusters of Covid-19 in Ross-on-Wye as well as other places in the county,” the statement read.

“We feel it is important that our community is aware that there are a growing number of cases in Ross, and the rate of infection in Herefordshire seems to be increasing.

“Being informed allows us to continue to take great care to protect ourselves and people around us.

“We strongly encourage people to reduce their own and others’ potential exposure to the virus wherever possible.”

Herefordshire Council leader David Hitchiner also spoke of the need for people to stay at home as much as possible.

The council took an early decision not to rely entirely on central supply lines of personal protective equipment to help cope with the extra demand.

Council chief executive Alistair Neill said last month that central Government’s work to provide personal protective equipment was ‘a hopeless muddle’.

Local PPE stock levels are healthy at the moment and the council has established a new locally manufactured supply source for face masks. Production of these is expected to commence on June 1.

Council leaders said in April that the authority uses around 18,000 face masks a day.

This new source of locally produced masks will also create jobs, according to an internal council report said.

Council officers said they were also putting the capacity in place to operate a test and track system which will be available seven days a week.

Officers reported that they can only plan on the basis of what they know at the moment and are undertaking proactive work with settings to put in place robust infection protection and control measures.

The report also says their intelligence remains limited by some of the national systems which don’t currently provide all the data that they would like for things such as testing capacity and use of this capacity locally.

It goes on to say that national systems are being established following recruitment to the two tiers of national contact tracing staff.

The council has established a single point of contact.

A Herefordshire Council Single Point of Contact has been established and this will be covered seven days a week – this has been operational since May 18.

Last week the county council’s public health protection lead provided a training session to environmental and public health officers.

The initial cohort of staff has been trained to support the process within Herefordshire as they do not know yet how many people will be needed to respond to the contact tracing programme.