ROUGH sleepers, the elderly, people living in bedsits and special schools are in the “red zone” with a high likelihood of a coronavirus outbreak.

Southend Council has outlined the risk of further coronavirus cases in its new outbreak control plan which details how it plans to tackle any spike in cases of Covid-19.

The potential Covid-19 hotspots were revealed as Southend Council and Essex County Council launch a new contact tracing system that will focus on monitoring cases with links to these groups, as well as others such as at-risk children, people in the BAME community, schools, hospitals and childcare facilities, which are classed as having a medium risk.

When someone within these groups tests positive for the virus, the aim of the new system will be to quickly identify anyone who has been in contact with them and ask them to self-isolate for a fortnight, before they can spread the virus further.

Independent councillor Trevor Harp, who oversees health in Southend, said he believes the contact tracing service will “make a real difference” in stopping the spread of the virus.

He added: “It is important that even though some guidance has been relaxed, everyone must continue to stay safe, stay apart, maintain good hand hygiene and self-isolate if you have symptoms.”

The two councils have commissioned the company Provide to operate the service and it is being funded by the Department of Health and Social Care through grants of £5.78million for the county council and £887,000 for Southend.

John Niland, group chief executive of Provide said: “To effectively deliver the contract tracing service, a new Microsoft Dynamics programme will be used to provide case management and information sharing in a compliant way between partners.

“This will enable the creation, triage and action of complex cases passed to both local authorities from the national Test and Trace system.”

He added that the system would be “invaluable” in reducing cases.

However, if the councils fail to stop the virus spreading within one of these groups through contact tracing they will have the power to oversee a local lockdown which could range from shutting down a single school, care home or business to closing off an entire section of the borough.

Southend Council’s director of public health, Krishna Ramkhelawon, said: “We can stay safe by doing three simple things - stay apart, wash your hands properly, and if you have symptoms, stay home, isolate immediately and get tested.

“These are really important to help us tackle Coronavirus both personally and as a community across Essex and Southend.”