SO-CALLED 'swab squads' could be deployed if there is a flare-up of Covid-19 in Swindon.

That’s one of the measures in a new plan on handling an outbreak approved by the borough’s health and wellbeing board.

It would see representatives of Swindon Borough Council and the NHS visiting areas of re-emerging coronavirus in order to test people.

The plan, which was ordered by government from every top-tier local authority in England, was introduced by the council’s director of public health Steve Maddern.

He sounded a note of caution about what constituted an outbreak, saying: “That could be as few as two people in certain circumstances.

“This is a plan which is live and will be changed if the data and evidence it is based on changes.

“Although Covid-19 is a novel virus, it is within the family of coronaviruses, like the common cold and flu, which we are familiar with. This plan is a way of dealing with the unusual in a very usual way.”

If a local outbreak did occur the plan says the main priorities would be to protect those in care homes and schools and to understand where there were particular vulnerabilities in Swindon.

The national testing centre set up at Wroughton park and ride would be crucial, Mr Maddern said.

He added 'swab squads' of mobile testers would travel to areas or settings to gauge the extent of any outbreak.

“We’d need to protect people in large workplaces but also people in other work which makes them more vulnerable, such as sex workers,” he said.

The plan will be overseen by the Swindon Covid-19 health protection board, chaired by Mr Maddern, which reports to the health and wellbeing board.

Council leader David Renard, who chairs the higher board, said: “We’ve seen in Leicester central government getting involved and wanting to take control and dictate.

“At what point in a local outbreak would we expect to see central government want to get involved?”

Mr Maddern said that was a very good question.

The chief constable of Wiltshire Police, Keir Pritchard, said he wanted greater clarity.

He said perhaps new laws could be passed to help police new outbreaks and impose restrictions to combat them.

Mr Pritchard said: “I fear we may be put in a particularly tricky place on this – whether it is the police or Public Health England – if we have to enforce them.

“We need crisp and clear legislation otherwise we risk losing our relationship with the public. I urge this forum to request clarity to be provided to us and clarity to be provided to the public.”

Mr Maddern said at the moment public officials were applying the rule of the “greater good” and that was working “nine times out of 10” with the public.

The plan was approved unanimously and was published yesterday.