‘IT is still with us, it is still here – It hasn’t gone away’. 

The warning words from Dorset’s director of public health, Sam Crowe, as the county unwinds some of the pandemic lockdown measures. 

For Weymouth councillor and practising GP Dr Jon Orrell, the current lull is seen as the interval in a game of football, with the potential for a furious second half about to begin. 

Other health professionals at the health scrutiny committee adopted his analogy – expressing fears that the area, which has suffered less badly than many other places, might not do so well if there was a second wave. 

But the good news is that the county is now better prepared, better equipped and has more collective knowledge than it did four months ago. It is now also well used to working together across different agencies sharing expertise and skills. 

Mr Crowe told the meeting that it was uncertain what effects there might be for Dorset from the well-publicised beach invasions during the recent heatwave. 

He said that although the county had managed to keep infection rates and deaths low this was not the time to ease up on hand washing and social distancing – they remained as important as they did at the start of the pandemic. 

The meeting heard that both councils, Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, now had outbreak management plans in place and could bring about localised lock-downs should they be needed. 

The two authorities have been given £3m by the Government for this next phase of fighting the virus, a phase which would rely on rapid testing and prompt isolation of suspected victims and potential carriers. 

Graphs shown to the meeting illustrated just how quickly the infection could spread – something which the director of public health admitted had taken professionals by surprise, but he said, was a stark reminder of how quickly it could resume. 

“Covid 19 is still here and is amongst us. Leicester shows we can’t be complacent and we may have to respond quickly,” he said. 

Dr Orrell said that while many things had been done well the nation was one of the worst performers in combating coronavirus, faring badly compared to countries which had a less advanced health system: “I see this only as a pause. It’s a game of two halves and I fear what the autumn might bring,” he said. 

The GP called for professionals in Dorset to get testing, tracking and isolation right from the outset so there were no delays if the worst happened if the infection rate increased locally. 

The meeting heard that there had been plans for a local Nightingale Hospital at the Bournemouth International Centre and another in Salisbury had the rate increased much further. 

Tim Goodison, from the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, said that it was now expected there would be a surge in ‘normal’ hospital admissions as people needing treatment for heart problems, cancer and other life-threating conditions were admitted. He said that too could create a surge in demand which an already tired NHS might find difficult to deal with. 

“That could have an impact for at least 12 months, it could be considerably longer than that, we just don’t know. We are still in a major incident, still in the height of a pandemic, there may be a second surge...I wouldn’t want anyone to think we are out of the woods yet, we’re not,” he said. 

“Cllr Orrell said it was a game of two halves. I think he’s probably right but hopefully we are at the end now of the first phase...and we still have to make a recovery.”