|Coronavirus Update: Call to action & protecting our most vulnerable
Dear Knowsley businesses and organisations,
Since the coronavirus pandemic started earlier this year, Knowsley has come a long way. Partners across the borough are continuing to work collaboratively as part of a Knowsley Better Together approach to protect and support our communities, our businesses and the most vulnerable. As we work together to try and reduce the impact of Covid-19, we are aware that restrictions have been challenging for businesses, employees, charity and voluntary organisations, community groups and residents. However, they are essential to stop the spread of the virus.
Knowsley and the wider Liverpool City Region have seen significant increases in cases over the previous weeks, and we are now beginning to see the impact on our local hospitals with a rise in hospital admissions.
At the time of writing Knowsley has 663 cases per 100,000 population, and as a result the Liverpool City Region, including Knowsley, has been placed in Tier 3 restrictions (Very High). This is the highest rating in the Government’s new three tier system. From Wednesday 14 October, Knowsley was required to follow Tier 3 restrictions until further notice, the detail which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-level-very-high. The restrictions will be reviewed in four weeks, alongside our confirmed cases.
The restrictions impact on businesses, transport, and limit social contact with people from different households (are all detailed in the above link).
A CALL TO ACTION- WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW TO SUPPORT KNOWSLEY
Using local intelligence and feedback, we want to highlight areas we feel that, with your help could support the reduction in community transmission and reduce the impact on our vulnerable residents as well as our local economy. We believe that with some additional voluntary measures we can reduce the numbers of cases in the area, and therefore reduce the number of restrictions necessary to contain the virus in the future.
1. Working from home
Tier 3 restrictions state that where possible all staff should now be working from home for the winter months. Doing so will reduce the overall contacts and ensure any outbreaks in your workplace are less disruptive. This is particularly important for employees, or members of their families who were previously shielding, to protect them from the harmful effects of the virus. We would strongly recommend these individuals should now either be working from home, or re-deployed into non-public-facing roles wherever possible.
2. Movement of staff
Where staff cannot work from home, we are strongly recommending they remain in one location which is Covid-19 secure, and the number of contacts is limited. Staff should not be moving between locations if it is avoidable and where possible, they should form work bubbles to limit interactions with other people, meaning consistent staff working the same shifts.
3. Use of Agency Staff
Through local outbreak management engagement with businesses and in various settings it has been highlighted that records of agency staff or temporary workers are difficult to identify and collect. This makes it difficult and complicated to establish whether temporary staff or workers were in attendance at the workplace setting during a positive cases symptomatic period.
Where agency staff or temporary workers have been identified as ‘close contact’ this increases the task of contacting those individuals to advise them to self-isolate in order to minimise the risk of an outbreak.
We therefore strongly advise that all workplace settings keep stringent records of all personnel on site, including visitors, agency and/ or temporary workers to ensure they can be contacted and advised to self-isolate. This will help to avoid any member of staff unknowingly spreading the virus.
4. Promote symptoms and self-isolation practice
Our experiences have highlighted how well our local businesses and organisations understand the symptoms and requirements for workers to self-isolate, however evidence still suggests many local and UK residents do not. We all have a part to play in promoting the key messages of symptoms and self-isolate. Please continue to promote:
What you can do:
5. Self-isolation payment for low paid workers / staff on zero-hour contracts and agency staff
For residents, staff, staff on zero hours contracts, agency workers, etc who may express difficulties financially in self-isolating they could be eligible for a payment of up to £500. Visit here for more information:
6. Transport / Car sharing
Through managing cases and outbreaks in the workplace it has become evident that a large number of employees or workplace contacts have been required to self-isolate or have subsequently contracted the virus through sharing transport to and from the workplace.
The local restrictions make clear the importance of adhering to transport guidance. The guidance states that all non-essential travel should be minimised “where getting to and from work would be identified as essential”. We would therefore recommend you encourage staff to:
If car sharing is needed to get to and from the workplace both people must consent to sharing and be free from any Covid-19 symptoms.
The following guiding principles must also apply:
For more information on care sharing and safe travel please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers#private-cars-and-other-vehicles
7. Risk assessment for clinically extremely vulnerable
Although the re-introduction of shielding was not included in the Tier 3 restrictions our message is clear: Protect your clinically extremely vulnerable workforce
We would strongly advise you review your risk assessments for clinically extremely vulnerable employees and consider re-introducing the measures previously in place for these residents.
We would suggest using the following NHS risk assessment guidance, for your workforce risk assessment and make decisions based on this. This will support you to categorising individuals as high, medium and low risk: https://digital.nhs.uk/coronavirus/shielded-patient-list
8. Businesses that work in other people’s homes
For businesses where staff are regularly working in households where somebody is vulnerable but has not been asked to shield, for example the home of someone over 70, prior arrangements should now be made with those individuals to avoid any face to face contact, for example when answering the door.
These businesses should be particularly strict about handwashing, coughing and sneezing hygiene, and disposing of single-use tissues.
For businesses we are advising that you re-affirm those good practices and review your risk assessments for visiting homes where a vulnerable resident may reside. For more information please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes
Finally, we wanted to thank all of our businesses and organisations for their continued support and efforts to date. Your support and understanding are appreciated.
If you require any further information please review Knowsley’s workplace guidance and Frequently Asked Questions page: https://www.knowsleynews.co.uk/workplace-guidance-for-effective-management-and-response-to-covid-19/
For general queries and advice on managing a potential outbreak please contact: 0151 443 4712 or email COVID19.SPOC@knowsley.gov.uk
This line is available Monday to Friday 9am-5pm, and weekends 10am-4pm. This is an answerphone, but the message left will be passed on to an officer within one hour. For support out of those hours or on a Bank Holiday please contact: Public Health England North West Health Protection Team on 0151 434 4819.
Dr Sarah McNulty FFPH