NHS chiefs are taking steps to reduce the risk of the spread of serious infectious diseases among asylum seekers who have been housed in the region at short notice.
Health chiefs have until 4pm today to draw up plans to vaccinate recently resettled asylum seekers in the region against diphtheria, amid fears some may also have tuberculosis or MRSA, picked up at the migrant center. crowded government building in Manston, Kent.
But vaccination or treatment could be hampered because some have already moved multiple times since arriving in the region and because the Home Office failed to notify local agencies in advance.
Diphtheria and tuberculosis are highly infectious diseases that are spread by sneezing or coughing and spread especially easily in dirty or crowded conditions.
Experts say the risk of infection to the general UK population, which is well immunized, is low.
But since these diseases are so rare, there is concern that a patient present could be misdiagnosed and infect others, because GPs or 111 callers would have no idea to keep an eye out for such diseases in the area. .
Twenty-six asylum seekers were transferred from Yarl’s Wood detention center in Bedfordshire, after a stay in Manston, to the Rose and Crown Hotel in Wisbech over the weekend.
An unknown number of migrants were also moved to hotels in Norwich and Great Yarmouth last week as Home Secretary Suella Braverman took steps to ease conditions in Manston, which was housing some 4,000 people, more than double its capacity. .
But according to various sources, the Home Office gave no advance warning to local authorities, local health chiefs or even hotel staff, and local councils and agencies are now scrambling to catch up and provide social support and of health.
Migrants were not given a health screening before moving in, so given the recent outbreaks in Kent, the Home Office has now ordered the NHS to make immediate plans for diphtheria vaccinations.
But five of those who moved into the hotel in Wisbech have already moved in, raising concerns among local officials about any health screening attempts now being made.
Asylum seekers are technically free to make their own travel and accommodation arrangements, but they are supposed to keep the Home Office informed.
The migrants who stayed in Yarmouth were due to be tested for tuberculosis last week, only to be postponed when health services became concerned they needed tests for a wider range of illnesses.
Finding hotel accommodation for migrants and asylum seekers has become an urgent priority since the firebombing of a Dover facility last week left Manston, the UK’s main migrant processing centre, severely overcrowded. .
One resident recounted having to sleep on the ground with 130 men in a large tent and being prevented from going to the toilet, showering or going out to exercise.
Local NHS chiefs have been warned that the list of infections identified in the overcrowded camp includes MRSA, diphtheria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, scabies and skin lesions.
To alleviate overcrowding and the spread of disease, the Home Office has placed some migrants in hotels across the country without the usual preparatory liaison with local officials, leaving other agencies to play catch up.
Statements issued by the UK Health Security Agency (successor to Public Health England) and Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridgeshire National Health Service began: “We have recently been made aware of the placement of asylum seekers in North East Cambridgeshire” in a coordinated manner and thinly veiled rebuke to the Home Office.
UKSHA’s Dr Jorg Hoffmann added that the public health risk to the local community is extremely low and if an outbreak of infection develops within the group of asylum seekers, UKSHA will provide advice on how to contain and treat it.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Home Office liaises with UKHSA regarding suspected cases of diphtheria and infection to safely move people to more appropriate accommodation to support their safe isolation.
“Prior to this, we ensure that a hotel can assist in isolation and that the local Health Protection team is notified that they are being transferred to. To suggest that they are not is wrong.
“We engage with local authorities as soon as possible whenever sites are used for asylum accommodation and work to ensure arrangements are safe for hotel residents and local people.”
Earlier this week, the Fenland District Council requested a precautionary measure on the housing of immigrants in Wisbech, arguing that the location is not suitable and cannot meet their needs.