A TEAM of environmental health officers in Torfaen have been given more powers to investigate and respond to potential coronavirus cases.

The increased powers will allow the council to introduce an out-of-hours 24-hour rota to deal with part 2a order referrals – through which authorities can apply for a court order to take action to protect public health where other measures have failed. This can include detaining people in hospital or requiring them to undergo a medical examination or to wear protective clothing.

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The team of five officers are already part of the environmental health team at Torfaen council, but have been given an additional role to help the authority through the coronavirus pandemic.

The report says: “Officers have the responsibility to receive, give or require information to enable action to be taken in relation to people, premises or objects where they may be infected, contaminated or could otherwise adversely affect public health.”

Under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act of 1984, the council has a statutory duty to investigate and respond to notifications of certain infectious diseases.

Without enough authorised officers, the council may not be able to fulfil this statutory obligation with the coronavirus pandemic.

The report says that the failure to investigate and respond to notifications of such diseases is “likely to have a potentially significant impact on public health and there is the likelihood that there would be additional secondary cases of infection.”

While Public Health Wales does not release information regarding the cases of coronavirus in each local authority area, the Aneurin Bevan Health Board (ABHB) has recorded 220 cases. Torfaen is one of five local authority areas that make up the ABHB.

No other health board in Wales has recorded more than 100 cases.