LATEST COUNCIL COVID-19 UPDATE – 31ST MARCH

Here is today’s Covid-19 Update from the Council:

“I am aware that you may have seen reports last night that The Convention Centre in Harrogate is the latest facility to be chosen to be turned into a “Nightingale Hospital” alongside the likes of the NEC in Birmingham, The  Manchester Central Complex and the ExCeL conference centre in London.  At this stage we have no official announcement from the NHS but we will, of course, update you further once more information becomes available.

This briefing will cover:

  • National developments including the number of people tested for the virus, information about blood transfusion, latest mental health guidance
  • Appeal for support for Emergency Food Provision
  • Ward level response and work with third sector partners and local communities to provide a response for those residents socially isolating due to health conditions.
  • Support for charities in Leeds from Leeds Community Foundation
  • Local implications of COVID-19 – cancellation of Yorkshire In Bloom; cancellation of Leeds West Indian Carnival; Car Park Closures; Telephone Death Registration; Forestry Services work to tackle trees presenting a hazard to the public or transport corridors
  • Promotion of the King’s College London COVID-19 App

National developments:

  • Numbers of cases: The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that as of 9am on 30 March a total of 134, 946 people have been tested for the virus. 112, 805 were confirmed negative and 22, 141 were confirmed positive. Very sadly, as of 5pm on 29 March 2020 1,408 patients in the UK who have tested positive for coronavirus have died. As a point of very cautious optimism, Chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance has, however, said today that the number of new cases a day is seemingly steady which may suggest we are “already beginning to see some effects” of social distancing.
  • Blood and transplant services – NHSBT have issued a statement saying that their blood stock levels for all components remain in good position. NHSBT are concentrating their efforts to ensure short shelf life components, platelets and components for intrauterine, neonatal, pediatric and infant use, are available when needed. NHSBT has written to 900,000 donors asking for their continued support with the message “You can still travel to donate. Giving blood and platelets is essential to the NHS and vulnerable patients. Please keep donating.” The blood.co.uk website has all the information blood donors need to be reassured it is safe to donate and to keep their appointment.
  • Mental Health Support – Mental Health Minister Nadine Dorries has announced today that further support will be offered to those people struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. Further information can be found here: advice to support mental health during coronavirus outbreak

Appeal for emergency food provision: This is an appeal to meet the ever increasing demand whilst some many people are struggling during this crisis. Fareshare have now set up a focused campaign to allow individuals and companies to donate key items or money to enable further food purchases. Details of the campaign can be found here, with a direct email for anyone who wants to make offers of products or money leedsappeal@fareshareyorkshire.org. We hope a Look North feature will help raise awareness of the scheme. Please can you promote the campaign with your own local contacts.

As a reminder following Saturday’s update, a lot of work has been done on new emergency food provision for families and individuals who are experiencing difficulties in accessing food due to financial constraints, self-isolation, being part of the ‘Shield Cohort’ or general accessibility of food. Requests can be made for direct delivery to homes (with a contactless drop being made), customer collection from a local ‘provision hub’, or for a volunteer to collect and drop off. Local provision hubs include Schools, Children’s Centres, Foodbanks, Community Hubs (Armley, Compton Centre, Dewsbury Road and Merrion) and Third Sector Organisations.  The posters attached (JPEG version) provide information for organisations/key workers to refer and for individuals to self-refer on 0113 376 0330. As you know, anyone wanting to volunteer support for food collection and drop off is accessed should register here via the VAL volunteer hub scheme – doing good in Leeds.

I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks to all those council staff and partners who have worked so hard to set this up and to the very many Council staff who have moved from other service areas to make the project possible. The challenge of sourcing the necessary warehouse space and equipment cannot be underestimated. Officers have also worked closely with partners to ensure this complements the work of groups such as Fareshare, Food Banks, Food Aid Network and Re think food (amongst others). This has ensured that local resources are effectively pooled and that all parties are working together to ensure food is reaching those that need it most. We have also successfully negotiated with the Department for Education to use the recently secured ‘Healthy Holidays’ funding flexibly to support food purchasing for the scheme where that is needed.

On day one of operation around two hundred food parcels were produced. However, we anticipate there is potential for the scheme to supply up to 500 parcels per day subject to food supply. This will enable the consistent flow of emergency food to Leeds residents most at need during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ward level response to coronavirus in Leeds –  As you know from previous updates, the council and a range of partners and local communities have developed a response for those who need help at the moment, which includes the launch of a new Coronavirus helpline 0113 3781877 for those who may be self-isolating due to health conditions but who do not have friends and family that are well and able shop for them. Requests will be met by a growing network of volunteers who have been recruited into the Community Care Volunteering Programme. We are still recruiting volunteers who can sign up on the Voluntary Action Leeds website. doing good in Leeds

The work will be co-ordinated at a ward level by a network of voluntary, third sector and faith organisations, who will match volunteers to the requests of residents. The attached appendix list the organisations we are working with in different areas of the city.

Support for charities from Leeds Community Foundation – Leeds Community Foundation has launched a fund to support charities and community groups across Leeds that are experiencing exceptional difficulties operating as a result of the National Emergency measures resulting from COVID-19.  The Leeds Community Foundation Resilience Fund will support organisations by offering urgent financial support to cover core costs, volunteer expenses, staff costs and transport – ensuring vital work to support vulnerable and isolated residents can continue. The Foundation is seeking support from both corporate and individual philanthropists to help fund this local initiative. For more information about donating to the Leeds Community Foundation Resilience Fund please contact the Development team by emailing info@leedscf.org.uk. Donations can also be made online via Leeds Resilience Fund

Leeds Community Foundation is working with partners including the National Emergency Trust (NET) to ensure the Leeds Community Foundation Resilience Fund aligns and complements their national appeal, which will distribute money raised through charitable organisations, including Community Foundations and other national charities. This funding will be in addition to grants we award through the Resilience Fund and may have different arrangements.

Local implications of COVID-19: Here are some additional implications of COVID-19 on top of all those we have previously reported to you.

Telephone Death Registration – I understand there have been a number of queries following my earlier update about changes to the way in which deaths are registered. To clarify the situation, the way deaths are registered changed from 27 March.  Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries will send the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death form direct to the Registrar’s office. However, they will now need to ask for the name and contact details of the person who will be registering the death.  A Registrar will then telephone that individual directly to take details of the registration.  There is no need to call registrars for an appointment or to visit the council in person anymore.  The changes have been brought in by the government to reduce unnecessary travel and support social distancing.  Further details about the changes can be found on our website: births deaths and marriages.

Car Park Closures – I can confirm that colleagues at West Yorkshire Police have asked us to close car parks at some specific sites. In light of that request, and with national advice seeking to discourage travel for the purposes of exercising, we have taken the decision to close all car parking in parks. We believe this is the right thing to do from a public safety perspective. The government has, however, promoted the continued use of allotments thus far on the basis that these are not places that provide for mass gatherings (like parks) and are not usually located directly next to the owners residence.

Forestry services – Leeds City Council’s forestry team are now prioritising emergency and urgent works. This means the only tree works being considered are those where there is a risk of harm or a need to maintain unobstructed transport corridors. Officers will now focus on walk-by inspections of Council and privately owned trees along major transport corridors and any trees reported as dangerous by third-parties. Please be reassured that where work is deemed necessary due to the risk posed to individuals or transport corridors, Tree Officers will continue to be able to respond to public or member enquiries and bring operational teams in to carry out that work.

Yorkshire in Bloom – Sadly, Yorkshire In Bloom have now cancelled their competition for this year and it is likely that this will be followed by a cancellation of summer judging. In light of this, and as part of ongoing efforts to concentrate resources in key service areas, there will be no hanging baskets or floral decorations supplied to wards and “In Bloom” groups this year.

Leeds West Indian CarnivalI am sure that many of you are by now aware that the Council and the Leeds West Indian Carnival committee took the difficult decision this weekend to cancel the 2020 event. The carnival is usually a highlight of the city’s cultural calendar and, as many of you will know, has national significance as the oldest West Indian Carnival in Europe. We have committed to work with the Carnival committee to find different ways to use our grant funding to the benefit local communities. The Black Music Festival has also, sadly, been cancelled.

King’s College London COVID app – Finally, and importantly, could I encourage all of you to join in and promote an important project designed to help track the spread of coronavirus. You can download the King’s College London COVID app to report daily how you’re feeling, whether you’re unwell or currently fit. https://covid.joinzoe.com/ The aim is to get a better picture of what is happening across the city to complement other data sources to help inform services in the coming weeks and months. We hope to update you about this work in a future update.