WORK has started preparing Dorset for a winter with coronavirus. It comes with a warning that numbers could rise as we spend more time indoors.

More of us are also likely to be invited to have a flu’ jab during the colder months as efforts continue to keep pressure off the NHS.

The county’s public health director Sam Crowe told a pan-Dorset public health board that it was quite likely that numbers would rise as more people began mixing indoors for work, social reasons and schooling.

He re-iterated that the county had done exceptionally well in maintaining social distancing, hand-washing and sticking to the other rules, which had all helped keep the Dorset infection rate down to one of the lowest in the country.

Mr Crowe said that a new pan-Dorset Covid 19 health protection board had already met several times and was working well together with winter planning high on the agenda.

He said the county had been given just over £3million for the next phase of the battle against the pandemic but expected it to be a one-off grant from the Government.

Monitoring is continuing for any signs of localised outbreaks but the director said there had been no evidence, locally, that recent popular beach days had led to an increase in infection, although he said it was known many of the visitors had come from the Midlands, where Covid rates were higher. Mr Crowe said it was not the beaches which were the biggest risk, but the fact that people were travelling to and from the area is crowded trains, coaches and cars.

He said it was well reported that the chances of being affected outdoors was far lower than inside where proximity and poor circulation increase the risk of virus spread. He said most areas, typically, saw an increase in infections of all types, when children return to school in September.

He said that if infections rates were to rise to 200 cases over a seven-day period in both parts of Dorset he would start to worry although tried and tested track and trace systems would help pinpoint areas where some lockdown measures might have to be re-imposed. He said he expected that a national track and trace app’ could be available by Christmas although he had confidence in the more traditional methods in the meantime.

Preparations had also been made to draft in professionals from neighbouring counties if there was a surge in infection rates, with Dorset offering similar support to its neighbours, “but we hope we will never get to that stage,” he said.

He said that for those preparing for the worst it was a case of being damned if they acted too quickly and damned if they were seen to be slow but he said an increase had to be planned for: “The bottom line is that there is a lot of people who haven’t had it and are still susceptible,” he said.