Message to businesses from Dr Sarah McNulty, Knowsley’s Director of Public Health
This is a particularly challenging time for Knowsley and there are several factors that can make it difficult for Knowsley businesses to protect their workforce, in particular for businesses and organisation that have been identified by the government as able to remain open.
We saw many outbreaks in workplaces during January, and this has continued in a smaller, yet still significant way into February; these outbreaks affected both the individual and business operations. The new variants have a significant transmission advantage over the previously observed strain, with an estimated increased reproduction rate of between 0.4 and 0.7; in other words, this variant is up to 70% more transmissible.
Therefore, it is now even more important that alongside the roll-out of vaccinations, that we remain extra vigilant, that we continue with the measures to protect us from Covid-19 and take additional measures wherever possible.
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Below are some of the things you can practically do to minimise the risk of a disruptive outbreak in the workplace, and keep cases as low as possible within the community: –
- Move all staff who can work from home back home
The greater the number the staff you have in your workplace environment, the greater the risk of a disruptive outbreak. Ways to minimise the number of staff in the workplace include:
- Staggering “days in” can help, so that staff need only come into the workplace for essential parts of the job that cannot be done at home
- A booking system
- Only allowing a maximum number of employees/staff on your site
- Maintaining at least 2m distancing at all times.
- Review your risk assessments
With the new virus even more transmissible it is essential that you review your risk assessments. Additional measures should be considered to maintain social distancing on site and reduce the risk to your staff. Additional work will be undertaken by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), therefore updating your risk assessments as well as communicating regularly with your staff is important.
- Internal Contact Tracing – This is Vital
As mentioned above, new variants are circulating in Knowsley. Through our recent engagement with businesses we have found that many solely rely on national tracing systems to identify those that have come into contact with Covid-19.
It is vital that you play your part in helping to identify those contacts in the workplace, which in turn will add to what is happening at national level.
What Can You Do?
Help is available. If you have workplace cases or outbreak concerns, please contact Knowsley Council’s Single Point of Contact for advice. Templates can be provided for you to do internal contact tracing and we can support you to stop the transmission chain as soon as possible.
Single Point of Contact: COVID19.SPOC@knowsley.gov.uk or call on 0151 443 4712
Close Contact – Redefined
Not widely promoted prior to Christmas, the Government has redefined “close contact”. This was in response to the new variant and the additional transmission risk. The previous definition was “…. between 1-2m would be a continuous 15-minute block”.
The new definition is “15 minutes aggregated throughout one day/shift”. Therefore, your risk assessments and internal contact tracing should now reflect this. Guidance for contacts of people with confirmed Covid-19 infection who do not live with the person can be found here
Regular asymptomatic testing
You should encourage staff unable to work from home to make use of Knowsley’s SMART testing sites. The sites are for those who are not experiencing symptoms and give a result usually within the hour. This is encouraged particularly for staff who cannot work from home. You can find a centre on the following link, which also informs you how busy the centre is: Find a test centre (test-and-trace.nhs.uk)
If your business has 50+ employees and you are interested in testing in the workplace visit:- https://www.gov.uk/get-workplace-coronavirus-tests . Smaller businesses should make use of the community Lateral Flow Test sites. Several Knowsley businesses are already undertaking regular on-site testing of staff.
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