Government's approach to managing local coronavirus outbreaks

An overview of the government's approach to managing local coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks.

Applies to England

The government’s aim is to return life to as close to normal as possible, for as many people as possible, as fast and fairly as possible. And in a way that avoids a new epidemic, minimises lives lost and maximises health, economic and social outcomes.

We are now able to better identify outbreaks at an early stage and take steps to ensure appropriate local intervention. Local outbreaks are identified and managed through continuous monitoring of the available data and different approaches are required according to local circumstances. See regular data on COVID-19 indicators in different parts of the country.

Areas with local restrictions

See Local restrictions: areas with an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) for a list of areas with additional local restrictions, including information for local authorities, residents and workers about what to do and how to manage the outbreak.

The rest of England should follow the guidance on staying alert and social distancing.

Local authorities may also have put in place local restrictions. You can find out more about this on your local authority’s website. Find your local council.

Our approach to managing local outbreaks

Our approach to managing local outbreaks is in 5 parts, which can be scaled up rapidly as needed:

  1. Monitoring: the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) and Public Health England (PHE) examine data on the spread of the disease and people’s behaviour across the country on a daily basis. Local data is shared with directors of public health in local authorities so they too can monitor what is happening in their area. It is also available to the public on our coronavirus dashboard.

  2. Engagement and communication: if monitoring suggests that there are problems at a local level, the JBC and PHE will engage the relevant local authority to generate a joint understanding of the problem and develop solutions. Effective communication with the local community at an early stage is crucial to avoiding the need for tougher measures.

  3. Testing: we have substantial testing capacity at a national level which can be targeted at local areas in order to get a grip on emerging outbreaks. Mass testing at a local level, combined with contract tracing through NHS Test and Trace, can control the virus and thus avoid stricter measures.

  4. Local restrictions: if the virus continues to spread, either a local authority or the government can restrict activities at particular locations and close individual premises.

  5. National intervention: if the previous measures have not proven to be enough, the government can put in place further measures. This might involve shutting businesses venues that would otherwise be allowed to open, closing schools, and asking people to stay at home or restrict their movement. These measures will be carefully tailored to the specific circumstances of each outbreak and reviewed at least every 2 weeks.

The COVID-19 contain framework sets out how local authorities and national government will work together to manage local outbreaks.

We have provided local authorities with new powers to act more quickly, where speed is central to preventing outbreaks from spreading more widely. And we have set out how ministers could use existing powers to control an outbreak if local action is insufficient, building on the approaches taken nationally.

Published 27 July 2020