DORSET people are showing increasing signs of anxiety as Covid levels rise across the country – especially among parents whose children may be suffering coughs and colds.

The county’s director of public health Sam Crowe says the county has done well and should keep the current risk level ‘in perspective.’

He says that everything necessary locally will be done to keep rates down and to provide information to people who are worried – including how to tell the difference between seasonal illnesses and Covid.

He told a meeting of the county’s health and wellbeing board on Wednesday that most Dorset residents had complied well with public health guidance but had, at times, found it difficult to keep up with the messages coming from the Government.

He said he hoped the new ‘rule of six’ would help with that by being straightforward and easy to understand.

Locally the county has a communications strategy in place in the event of local outbreaks and also has a team of 90 ‘trusted voices’ who were sharing messages of guidance and advice with their communities and also providing feedback from local people on how public health messages were being received and what people’s fears and anxieties are and what is of particular concern to each community.

“The mood music has definitely shifted in the past week because of the national rise in cases and we have seen the first tightening of national measures in response to the situation elsewhere in the country…but, nevertheless we still feel a local approach will be important and when we are continuing to build trust I believe that trust is best built on a local basis,” said Mr Crowe.

Council leader Spencer Flower said he backed the current tactics: “It’s a sensible and balanced approach. We have done extremely well in Dorset. There has been a change in the national scene but that doesn’t stop us doing what we believe will be the best for Dorset and we want to continue doing that,” he said.

Dr Forbes Watson, who chairs the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, said the county continued to provide a proportionate response to the threat within Dorset from Covid but, like elsewhere, had seen some problems in getting tests completed. He said the current local situation was being complicated by the emergence of seasonal respiratory tract symptoms which might or might not be Covid.

Mr Crowe said the local response would now be finding a balance between not unnecessarily worrying people while wanting them to be cautious and watchful.

He said there was evidence, nationally, that some people were not isolating and still going out, potentially infecting others even though they might feel well. He said this might result in a change to the attitude towards enforcement.

Chief Constable James Vaughan told the meeting that Dorset police would be seeking to reassure people that enforcement measures would be taken, where necessary, while at the same time not losing public support.

He said that so far most people in Dorset had been ‘very compliant’ with any restrictions and guidelines.