IT has now been a week since any coronavirus deaths were reported in local hospitals, as official data continues to point to a much-improved picture in St Helens.

The last time any deaths at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust were included in the official NHS figures was on Tuesday, June 23.

The trust, which runs Whiston, Newton and St Helens hospitals, has registered 206 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the outbreak.

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Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published on Tuesday shows that 194 deaths occurred in St Helens where COVID-19 was mentioned on their death certificate.

Out of that total, 104 took place in hospital, 80 in care homes, eight at home, one in a hospice and one registered as elsewhere.

The ONS data relates to all deaths that occurred up to June 19 but were registered up to June 27.

Separate data released by St Helens Borough Council also shows there has not been a single death linked to COVID-19 in local care homes for three weeks.

On Monday, the council’s overview and scrutiny commission met for the first time since February to discuss the authority’s coronavirus response and recovery plans.

“This pandemic has probably been the most challenging emergency the borough and the council has responded to in recent times,” said Rob Huntington, the council’s assistant chief executive, said.

“I’ve actually joined the organisation during the pandemic and seen first-hand the reaction that council has taken, at speed really, to implement what has been probably daily guidance from the government, unprecedented guidance from the government, in order to deal with the pandemic and limit the spread of it throughout the peak and ongoing.

“I think protecting the health of our residents and ensuring those who are most vulnerable in our communities our safe and cared for was the key focus.”

Mr Huntington said that in the week ending June 12, excess deaths in St Helens fell below the five-year average for the first time since March.

Excess deaths are calculated by taking the total number of people whose deaths were registered in 2020 and comparing it with the average number of deaths in the five years prior.

ONS data published on Tuesday also showed the number of registered deaths in England and Wales over one week has fallen below the five-year average for the first time since the lockdown began.

Locally, the number of excess deaths and infections have been gradually decreasing following the peak of the outbreak in April.

St Helens Star: Coronavirus testing pods at Whiston Hospital Coronavirus testing pods at Whiston Hospital

Mr Huntington said there has been 1,115 positive cases of COVID-19 in St Helens, which includes diagnoses from NHS, university and private labs.

That total is far higher than Public Health England’s 768 confirmed cases in St Helens.

As previously reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, an outbreak management advisory board has been established in St Helens, following instructions from the government.

The board is led by the council but based on the health protection board, which is chaired by St Helens’ director of Public Health, Sue Forster.

Linking in with this work is the development of an outbreak control plan, aimed at helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the local area.

Mr Huntington said: “We have established some governance arrangements to help manage where there might be what we would call local outbreaks.

“So if there were local outbreaks in St Helens, how do we actually make decisions on a local lockdown? Or on a very local lockdown and shifting people’s behaviour.

“So governance framework has been established there.

“That’s based on the health protection board being in situ, which has met. And a local outbreak management plan that is being developed.

“We’re just working through building the capacity to manage that process, which will include the temporary recruitment of environmental health officers to build on a local capacity we’ve got.”

St Helens Star: The lockdown measures continue to ease across the country The lockdown measures continue to ease across the country

A local lockdown could see schools, businesses or workplaces closed in areas with a high prevalence of infection.

On Tuesday, 100 days after the UK went into lockdown, Leicester became the first area to see measures tighten.

Public Health directors around the country will no doubt be paying close attention to events in Leicester, as it will likely be first local lockdown of many.

On Tuesday, St Helens’ outbreak management advisory board was due to meet for the first time, in private, with the group expected to meet weekly.

Some areas, however, are holding the outbreak management advisory board meetings in public.

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A spokesman for St Helens Borough Council said the meeting is being held in private as the board will be using post code data, which makes proceedings exempt.

The work of outbreak management advisory board will be fed to the People’s Board, which features a number of partner organisations who meet in public.

For the latest government guidance on coronavirus, visit