DORSET residents and businesses have been reassured the county is ‘prepared’ if the area moves to a higher tier of coronavirus restrictions - but health bosses warned transmission rates were rising among workers getting ‘complacent’ at the end of their shifts.

Sam Crowe, director of Public Health Dorset, and Matt Prosser, chief executive of Dorset Council, held an online coronavirus update for residents, where they discussed how authorities were dealing with a rise in cases in the area and answered their questions.

They insisted we remained ‘really lucky’ in Dorset to have among the lowest rates of Covid in the country, but urged people to not get complacent.They said the main cause of transmissions was within households.

On the potential of Dorset moving to a higher tier in coronavirus restrictions, Mr Crowe said: “There’s obviously a lot of anxiety going on about the very difficult decisions that are being taken to look at whether additional measures are required where cases are rising quickly. Locally, I would just like to assure people that we regularly discuss these issues and the need to be prepared should we have to start to have that conversation about the need to move to a higher alert level.”

Mr Prosser added: “We administered the government scheme to support local businesses. with funding during lockdown and we paid out well over £108million of the funding to local businesses to support them through this difficult time and we stand ready to do this again if the government needs us to, although at the current time at the tier level we’re in that’s not an option.

“While we have low rates of transmission we must not get complacent. It is our collective focus that is helping us keep these transmission rates down. We are seeing around the country, as soon as transmission rates start to rise in cases in groups that can perhaps potentially suffer less from Covid, it’s not long before those transmission rates jump across to those at higher risk; some of our older people and those with underlying health conditions.” If Covid cases continue to rise it will negatively impact on all aspects of our lives.”

Mr Crowe added: “We have been really really lucky in Dorset to have lower infection rates overall compared with many other areas of the country. But we did see a steep rise in cases in early October., similar to many other areas of the south west.

“It’s probably a combination of the colder weather, a higher infection rate in some of our neighbouring areas, and the return of schools and colleges. But that’s only part of the picture. We’re seeing continued positive cases affecting schools, care homes, workplaces, and in the last week or so we have seen more and more reports of Covid affecting GP surgeries, affecting our community hospitals, but also we’ve had at least one outbreak in a ward in one of our hospitals.We’re also seeing lots and lots of cases in workplaces where we know people are adhering as much as possible to the guidance around keeping two metres distance, covering their faces and washing their hands, but perhaps there are some lapses in behaviour when people are clocking off, perhaps at the end of the day catching up with work colleagues and being less cautious about those measures.Because of this increased prevalence of Covid, we changed our messaging deliberately under our outbreak management plan to issue a sort of amber warning. Asking people to act to avoid a further spike in cases and to do all we can to avoid having additional measures imposed on us.

“For now, Dorset Council remains at Tier 1 and a medium risk area, and I’m glad to say that after seeing that steep rise in the first two weeks of October it does look as though infections are starting to settle down.” The current situation in terms of Dorset is there are about 44 people currently in our hospital beds with Covid-19. That’s gone up quite a lot over the last couple of weeks.”