LATEST COUNCIL COVID-19 UPDATE – 31ST MAY

Please find below the latest Council Covid-19 update:

On Thursday, the Prime Minister announced that the Government’s 5 tests are being met, giving the green light for a new stage of the lockdown to begin from Monday, with primary schools opening to more pupils, some retail re-opening and more freedom for people to meet up with others outside their home. There’s lots to do to prepare for this locally, with the rate of new and updated guidance having increased again this week and likely to continue. This briefing contains a range of national updates, updates on our communications with schools, litterbins, steps taken to ensure social distancing in public spaces, and the regular weekly economic briefing. This briefing doesn’t contain an update on cases and deaths as this was provided recently and the figures thankfully are changing less now.  We will include these once a week.

We will do a specific briefing on the NHS Test and Trace programme early next week to follow the outline information in the last update.  We will also offer a Zoom call for members and MPs so that they can get a better understanding of this next phase of work.

Economy & Business Support– the discretionary business support scheme opens for applications on 1 June, and eligibility criteria is available to view now. Small and micro businesses and local charities who have not already received Covid-19 grant assistance, can demonstrate the impact of the pandemic on their business, and who have relatively high ongoing fixed property costs will be eligible. Voluntary sports clubs in Leeds have received nearly £1m of support in the form of £10k and £25k Small Business & Hospitality grants- with thanks to colleagues in Business Rates for making sure that clubs get the support they need.

National Developments

  • The Prime Minister has said that the government’s 5 tests are being met, so from Monday the country will move to a new stage in the lockdown, with primary schools opening to more pupils from 1 June, secondary schools from 15 June and non-essential retail re-opening from 15 June. From Monday people can meet up outside in groups of up to 6, provided social distancing is observed.
  • Test & Trace: DHSC has issued a number of guidance documents: an overview of how it works; guidance for employers and workers; guidance for people told by NHS contact tracers that they need to self-isolate, and updated guidance for households with a possible or confirmed coronavirus case.
  • DHSC has written to clinical groups about removing patients from the clinically extremely vulnerable list. This comes after reports of people receiving this message by text before being contacted by their clinician. The letter asks clinicians to discuss with patients whether or not they are still clinically vulnerable and mark the decision on the system. Government support will still be available via NHS Volunteers and priority supermarket delivery slots.
  • Much of the key guidance has been updated, including Staying safe outside your home and Staying alert and safe
  • Important announcements made yesterday are included self-employment support and furlough next steps, and we expect updated guidance on these changes next week

 Schools – Our extensive work with schools and settings continues, with regular communications with head teachers, principals and providers. We appreciate the amount of work being done by all involved to consider the risks and practicalities of extending opening of schools, it is not an easy area. We have had a good response to the survey of primary schools, which shows that most schools are taking a phased approach to opening- 65% intend to open at some point next week for some or all eligible year groups, with some opening to one year group. The following week (beginning 8 June), 90% of schools intend to be open to at least one year group, with 47% of those anticipating taking all three eligible years. This shows us that leaders are opting for a range of approaches, based on what is right for their school following the risk assessment process they are following. Legal services have confirmed that the decision to open or close a school rests with the Governing Board. Schools have been informed that Chairs of Governors can sign off risk assessments and formally record the decision on behalf of the governing body in the absence of boards being able to meet in person. Schools have been provided with information about accessing tests and a set of FAQs have been sent to parents/carers. We will continue to keep you posted during the week with how the further opening of schools goes.

Litterbins – A number of people have asked about litterbins, so here is an update. When the lockdown was announced we immediately took the step to suspend emptying of litter bins. With over 4,000 bins, it was not practical nor a good use of limited resources to tape up every bin. We did try and do some though, mainly on high streets. This was a bit rough and ready and soon many of those taping ups came loose or were part removed by the public. We initially relied on people getting the message through social media and press that litter bins should not be used. This had some success but many bins still got used – often people stuffing them full of dog-poo bags even when there was no bin liner in. At this challenging time we needed to encourage everyone to take greater personal responsibility for their rubbish. We then added a sticker to every litter bin to make clear they should not be used and asking people to take their litter home with them. Unfortunately, not everyone did this of course, and so we ensured bins that become full and a potential nuisance for nearby residents were emptied as often as we could. As we are now in “step 1” of the Government’s road-map out of “lockdown”, the public are leaving their homes more frequently and for more time. Unlimited exercise is permitted and household picnics in parks are allowed. More shops and businesses are open. Ice cream vans can operate! So we are now in the process of removing all covering/taping up of litter bins. We will operate an increased team of litter bin crews citywide that will focus mainly on the known streets/locations where the litter bins are being filled most often, as well as responding as promptly as possible to any reports we get. The message to the public is please take your litter home with you if at all possible, but we will empty bins as required. Please refer any “hotspot”/problem litter bins to your Cleaner Neighbourhood Team contact for a response.

Local Developments

  • A further press release about the preparations for gradual re-opening of retail and ensuring social distancing can be observed- this one including the signs that are being installed in the city centre.
  • Leeds Kirkgate Outdoor Market will re-open from Monday 1 June.

 

  • Care Homes– 20 care homes currently have Covid-19 outbreaks- the trend is improving thanks to the intensive work of homes, and our social care and health protection colleagues.  75 care homes have been identified for whole home testing. Using the portal can take between 2 and 14 days to receive test kits and then similar time to get results. PPE remains a challenge, with shortages of gloves and masks, but colleagues being resourceful to source mutual aid or new suppliers. 

 

  • The Neighbourhood Networks have done a great job to help older people in Leeds during coronavirus, through telephone befriending, delivering food and meals and fighting off boredom with online quizzes and socially-distanced bingo. Many of the networks are helping older people get online as part of 100% Digital Leeds- now more important than ever.
  • MoD have confirmed that mobile testing units will be in Morley on Wednesday and Thursday next week, operating through the national system. We’ll provide more information if it becomes available.
  • Waste: Otley Household Waste Site has reopened. A survey of waste site users shows large support for booking system. We continue to see increases in tonnage for black bin collections.
  • Covid helpline calls have declined again this week, averaging 200 a day. 4254 food parcels delivered last week.
  • Read the latest gov.delivery bulletin sent to residents today- including the city centre, test and trace, business support and schools.
  • We continue to support our managers with regular guidance to deal with the workforce issues we face, with extensive engagement with trade unions and regular thank you notes to staff. The LCC Facebook page is well used and valued by staff and now has more than 4000 members.

It will be an important week next week as more children return to school and some retail starts to re-open. As we start to see more people moving around the city it’s really important we keep our public health messages at the forefront and remind the public of the danger the virus still poses and the importance of social distancing.