It's been an incredibly busy 18 months for Cornwall Council's Director of Public Health, Rachel Wigglesworth. Here she talks about the unique challenges presented by the upcoming G7 Summit, and the work her team are doing to ensure we all enjoy a Covid-safe summer.
‘It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it,’ as the saying goes.
And that couldn't be more true when talking about the role of Director of Public Health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly when the G7 summit comes to Cornwall next month amid the ongoing pandemic.
Keeping Covid-19 at bay and the public safe as thousands of visitors descend on Cornwall for their summer holidays would be challenging enough.
But then factor in the arrival of world leaders, their delegations, the international press, and the inevitable protest groups, and things become more complicated.
That’s the task facing Cornwall Council’s director of public health Rachel Wigglesworth and her team. Rachel, who lives in North Cornwall with her family, started in the role in March 2020 having forged a successful career with the likes of national homeless charity Shelter, Public Health England, NHS organisations, and public health teams across the South West.
“The G7 is a great opportunity for Cornwall, and world leaders to address the climate crisis and building back better after the pandemic,” she said. ”But of course, holding it during a pandemic comes with clear public health challenges and it is only natural that people will have concerns about this.
“I want to reassure residents that their health and safety will always be at the forefront of all planning around the event, and we will never make any compromises on this.
“Cornwall Council’s Public Health team is working very closely with the Cabinet Office, Devon & Cornwall Police, Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to make the summit as safe as possible.”
A range of measures will be implemented to ensure everyone visiting Cornwall as part of the G7 summit arrives Covid-free and remains that way until they leave.
“All attendees will need to provide a negative test result before they arrive and then will do daily testing with Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) whilst they are here,” said Rachel.
“Anyone who tests positive or develops Covid symptoms will then have to self-isolate until they have one of the more sensitive PCR tests which will confirm the result. If the PCR test is positive, they must continue to self-isolate but if it’s negative, they can return to their roles.”
She added: “We will also have a robust programme of contact tracing to make sure anyone who has come into contact with a positive case self-isolates as quickly as possible. All positive cases will also be tested for variants of concern.”
There will be no blind eyes turned when it comes to following the basic rules, and everyone will be expected to wear face coverings, maintain social distancing where appropriate and adhere to hand hygiene guidance.
And while vaccine passports will not be necessary for travel to England, everyone will be encouraged to have their jab as soon as it is offered to them, Rachel said.
“We plan to minimise any health risks associated with the summit by this combination of regular testing, comprehensive contact tracing systems and asking people to comply with all of our Covid guidance.”
With so much of the focus on the G7 associates, Rachel is also keen to stress that residents, visitors and businesses are not being forgotten when it comes to public health planning.
"Everyone involved in the summit will be tested daily – that’s been agreed,” explained Rachel. “But at the same time there will be a big push to make sure our residents, visitors and businesses continue to take part in our established community testing programme and access their LFD test kits from pharmacies or one of the local testing sites. Confirmatory PCR tests will also be available to anyone in Cornwall who needs one.”
And what about those people living in the Carbis Bay and St Ives area? Are they being asked to do anything differently?
“What they do during the summit should be the same as what they do either side of the summit,” said Rachel.
“They need to follow all the public health guidance, get themselves vaccinated, do regular testing, self-isolate and get tested if they have any symptoms and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’. These are the safest steps anyone can take to prevent themselves catching Covid.”
Rachel said discussions would continue with the Cabinet Office and other partners on how best to keep everyone safe during the summit, and the risks of holding the event face-to-face were continually being reviewed.
“The health and safety of local residents is of prime importance, and we are working closely with the Cabinet Office, PHE and DHSC to ensure that the public health risks are fully understood and a measured and an informed approach can be taken,” she said.
For more information about Covid1-9 including the latest public health guidance, please visit https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/health-and-social-care/information-about-coronavirus/
If you have any questions relating to the G7, please contact Cornwall Council by email at G7cornwall@cornwall.gov.uk