In a county which has had 0 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, 0 deaths and 0 threats to its social fabric (so far…), how come the people are literally shitting themselves? And without even a toilet roll left on the town’s supermarket shelves as well! At this time on a Saturday afternoon I’d normally be sat in front of a TV watching Leeds United’s triumphant march to the Premiership. But with all sporting fixtures postponed I decided to go looking for toilet roll. Not a single supermarket (and I visited them all) had one…apart from Lidl’s-which had literally one. As I reached down to take it, I remembered that old trick where you glue a penny to the pavement…Ha! No…you won’t catch me I thought. But in this 10th year of Conservative rule why are people being so selfish? Oh, sorry I’ve just answered that one. Of course Government advice changes by the day- maybe this time next week it will have changed again, schools now open will have closed, large scale public events now encouraged will be banned , Diogo Rodrigues will have joined 2 more political parties, and Boris Johnson will have stopped talking about ‘herd imunisation’ as if the plan is for a mass culling of the working class. Either way I thought it was about time we had a look around our town and saw exactly how we’re coping. And with no Leeds game on, that’s exactly what I did…
Bridgwater Town Council
At Bridgwater Town Council we have ordered hand sanitiser gel and wipes for the public visiting the building. We have shows in the Town Hall theatre over the next few weeks and the public will be expected to use this upon entrance to the building. The Council has undertaken a risk assessment which will be adopted at the Executive committee scheduled for 18 March, which will also consider the possibility of ‘extreme measures’ of granting additional authority to the Town Clerk which will need to be approved at full council and will only happen if there is an outbreak in Bridgwater. Town Clerk David Mears says “I have not gone mad, simply putting measures in place as it is approaching our doorstep. On another note I have cancelled my Easter holiday to Italy.”
Sedgemoor District Council
On Sedgemoor District Council, Chief Executive Allison Griffin, has written to all members and staff saying that they have now moved into the “delay” stage which is designed to ‘delay’ the spread of the virus. She says “ While the Government has not chosen to give clear instructions in this regard I, in consultation with the Leader of Council, have decided that it would be very unwise for anyone to be visiting Bridgwater House or Colley Lane unless it is in the course of normal and essential business. As such please be advised that you should only visit these sites if absolutely essential. Councillors and Officers have also been advised not to attend any off site non-essential meetings, conferences or site visits, and have been asked to increase the amount of home working . Cleaners now have additional cleaning duties, but staff will need to clean their own workspace for which large tubs in each section have been provided for this purpose.”
Somerset County Council
Somerset County Council is also preparing for the outbreak Simon Clifford, Director of Corporate Affairs ,is coordinating the response, linking closely with Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health, who lead the response locally. SCC has the responsibility for running dedicated Coronavirus incident rooms. Simon says “ As part of the national effort to reduce its spread the first task is get everyone washing their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap, and so we have put up ‘wash your hand’ posters prominently in all Council buildings. Posters have also been issued to libraries, leisure centres, community venues and district offices and circulated to communities. All visitors to our Council buildings now wash their hands upon arrival.”
The County counter-virus campaign goes as follows
What can we all do?
- Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water
- Avoid touching your face (particularly your nose, mouth and eyes)
- Wipe down surfaces and objects regularly
- Use a tissue when coughing and sneezing, then binning it and washing your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, use the crook of your arm rather than your hand. ‘Catch it, Bin It, Kill It.’
To keep up-to-date with all the latest information, visit the NHS site here.
Public Health England
As Boris and co finally decide to listen to ‘experts’ the key advice now is coming from Public Health England, which has put out the following. “We’d like to reassure you that our local health and care services are well prepared with well-rehearsed plans in place to deal with the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). For most people, COVID-19 produces mild symptoms which include a cough, high temperature (fever) and shortness of breath and you’ll be fine after plenty of rest. However, for some (usually the elderly or those with an underlying health condition), it can lead to severe respiratory issues. Public Health England will identify all close contacts of anyone who tested positive and give further advice. “
For more information about contact tracing go here
What are the symptoms?
If you are showing symptoms (fever, dry cough and shortness of breath), you must self-isolate (stay indoors and avoid contact with others) and contact NHS 111 either online here or by phone for further advice.
What will reduce its spread?
COVID-19 is a new virus and health professionals are learning more about it all the time. However, it’s believed to be spread from person to person through cough droplets. Simple hygiene measures can help prevent its spread. This includes: wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds,wipe down objects and surfaces,use a tissue when sneezing or coughing and throw it away – ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’. Without a tissue, then use the crook of your arm rather than your hand.,Avoid touching your face (particularly your nose, mouth and eyes)
What do I do if I’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive?
If you think you’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive, and you start to develop symptoms, then please self-isolate (avoid close contact with others) and contact NHS 111 online here or by phone for further advice. Please do not visit your GP, pharmacy or your local A&E/hospital
Close contact is defined as spending a minimum of 15 minutes with someone affected and less than 2 metres away.
How do I self-isolate?
If you are self-isolating, you need to stay indoors in a well-ventilated room away from others and don’t share towels, utensils or crockery with anyone else in your household.
The Political parties have all turned to face this brave new world as elections scheduled for May 2020 have now been postponed for a year. The Labour Party,which wrote to the Government calling for this measure, has taken the decision to cancel the leadership elections Special Conference arranged for 4 April in order to safeguard members and staff and to protect public health along with the Welsh Labour Conference, the Scottish Labour Women’s Conference and the remaining leadership hustings .
All Labour Party meetings and events have been cancelled and campaigning activities suspended.
A Labour Party advice memo to councillors says “This is the worst public health crisis for a generation. As Labour councillors we all have an important role to play in ensuring that residents have access to and are following correct guidance and advice about Covid19.. Residents should be directed to the the government’s site for the public which has all the information that the public should need about symptoms and risks of Covid-19, and the action to take. Labour councillors are affiliated to the LGA (Local Government Association) which has a dedicated Corona Virus Hub with the latest information about dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak across the country. It collates information that is relevant to local authorities on the Covid-19 outbreak from agencies such as Public Health England, the Department for Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Leader of the LGA Labour group Nick Forbes, says “Councillors have been dealing with many more questions about what happens to those who are working and need to claim Statutory Sick Pay, and those who are in receipt of benefits but who are not well enough to attend regular meetings because they are self-isolating with Covid-19. The Understanding Universal Credit site has a site dedicated to the outbreak here. Statutory Sick Pay can now be claimed from day one of either sickness due to Covid-19, either if you have the symptoms or if you are staying at home on government advice. Any assessments for PIP and ESA that are missed due to the Covid-19 outbreak will be rearranged and the claimant will still receive their benefit whilst the assessment is rearranged to a more suitable time. If a resident needs to make a new claim, for example for Universal Credit, then this can still be completed online. You can keep up to date with the latest Covid-19 figures, as well as figures by Upper Tier Local Authority and NHS region.
Many members of the community will want to offer help to friends and vulnerable neighbours, and may approach you for advice. While individual actions could be helpful, it is important that everyone carefully follows all advice from Public Health England and the government. There is a risk that well-meaning intentions lead to difficult outcomes – including encouraging people to come together at a time when this is being discouraged, and possible safeguarding risks related to unmonitored contact with vulnerable people. I would recommend seeking advice from your own council officers in all instances. Councils are working hard in hugely challenging circumstances to help communities cope with Coronavirus and will continue to prepare for every eventuality. The announcement in the Budget of £500 million in hardship funding for individuals, and support to businesses – including business rates relief measures and a £2.2 billion grant fund – to be distributed by local authorities, was a positive step. Councils will need maximum flexibility to ensure funding can be distributed as quickly as possible and where there is most need. Local government needs the same commitment as the NHS to receive immediate financial support to help adult social care services. This will help keep vulnerable residents safe and reduce pressure on the NHS. We will be pressing for this to be understood by the government.”
The World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation is the global body attempting to co-ordinate a worldwide response as the number of cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continue to increase in the UK and across the world, so much so that it declared it a global pandemic earlier this week.
As of Friday 13 March 32,771 people in the UK were tested, with 798 confirmed positive, 10 patients having died as a direct result of the disease. WHO says “For most people, COVID-19 produces mild symptoms which include a cough, high temperature (fever) and shortness of breath and you’ll be fine after plenty of rest. However, for some (older people or those with an underlying health condition), it can lead to severe respiratory disease requiring hospitalisation.”
And…..back in Somerset
So, in Somerset, we currently have no live recorded cases of Coronavirus. The Somerset Coronavirus case listed on the government website is historical and relates to a Somerset resident who caught the virus abroad and was treated out of county. Somerset Health, Social Care and Councils believe they are well prepared to meet the expected arrival of the virus in our county -which will arrive and there will be many cases and probably deaths and so they have issued the following links.
Public Health England have issued guidance for anyone who is undergoing COVID-19 testing and self-isolating. This can be viewed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-self-isolation-for-patients-undergoing-testing
There is also guidance on why self-isolation is so important: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/02/20/what-is-self-isolation-and-why-is-it-important/
Check out https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public for the latest advice if you are planning to travel outside of the UK or have recently returned
For the latest public information, advice and guidance on COVID-19, check out https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
General Public Health questions and answers
Schools, parents and young people helpline
The Department for Education (DfE) has set up a dedicated helpline for schools, parents or young people. Available Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm, phone 0800 046 8687 or email DfE.firstname.lastname@example.org
5 things you can do to protect yourself and your community
Government’s action plan
Public Health England (PHE) has published a number of useful guides in response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus). These are:
Decontamination in non-healthcare settings such as offices, workplaces, libraries
Professionals who need to advise the general public
Social or community care and residential settings
Travel advice for those travelling and living overseas
No such thing as Society?
Finally, it’s worth noting that in this interdependent world where a virus can cross borders and attack everyone on the planet, we can finally dispense of the old Tory notion that there is ‘no such thing as society’. We have to work together to get through this and when you see Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg telling you to ‘sing the national anthem’ while you wash your hands’ or ‘give the NHS whatever resources it needs’ , everyone now realises that what it needed all along was getting back those 10 years of devastating cuts brought about by Tory austerity policies. The NHS ‘might’ not cope with this, but there are private health care beds out there and I for one support the petition by the GMB Union which calls for them to be ‘requisitioned’ to boost NHS capacity to deal with coronavirus.
Find the petition here.