DORSET two unitary councils will play a key role in containing any further coronavirus outbreaks – but are being warned that they must maintain the public’s trust to do so.

Director of public health, Sam Crowe, says that if it comes to further lockdowns it will be vital for local people to understand why they are being asked to take action.

He told a the county’s health and wellbeing board meeting, held online on Wednesday afternoon, that good communications, and trust, would be vital if further restrictions were needed in the county.

The meeting heard that, for the time being, it was ‘business as usual’ across Dorset as the pandemic rates remained low, but action might have to be taken at any time to combat any local outbreaks.

“We might be saying to a particular community, actually it’s now important that you don’t go to work, that you don’t go outside as much, you do try to stay indoors and perhaps get back to more strict social distancing’s all about working with people in our communities if we are asking people to behave differently in different situations,” he told the meeting.

He said it would be important for the public to have a full understanding of any actions they were being asked to take and why it was important to do that.

Both councils will play a major role in the next phase of tackling the pandemic with local outbreak management plans which will set out how the authorities respond to information from the NHS Test and Trace system about potential outbreaks, to support people who test positive and to encourage their contacts to self-isolate promptly.

The two Dorset councils have received an allocation of approximately £3m from the Government to support these plans (£1.28, Dorset, £1.8m BCP).

Mr Crowe said it was important to keep people informed about public health changes, but not to ‘over alarm’ them; daily monitoring would continue with experts looking at the developments and the councils’ reactions to any changes in the infection rate.

“We need to be very clear about what is required of people and the rationale,” he said.

The meeting heard that the Dorset risk was currently low but was being constantly monitored and if there was a rise in infections action would need to be taken very quickly.