30 December 2020
Covid-19 pressure on the NHS and health system prompts ‘major incident’ declaration by Essex Resilience Forum
In response to a significant growing demand on hospitals and health and social care services across Essex, and particularly Mid and South Essex due to coronavirus, the Essex Resilience Forum (ERF) has (Tuesday 29th December) declared a ‘major incident’ – enabling the County to seek further support from Government to address the pressures.
Local leaders from the ERF - a group that comprises the NHS, blue light responders and local authorities - say the pressures are being felt primarily in NHS and local authority services and are associated with critical care and bed capacity, staff sickness/self-isolation levels and the system’s ability to discharge patients quickly into safe environments.
Today, the number of patients in Essex receiving treatment for coronavirus increased to levels which have exceeded those seen at the peak of the first wave of the virus in the Spring. These levels are likely to increase further in the coming days.
Anthony McKeever, Executive Lead for Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership, said:
“We are taking every action possible within the NHS and across the wider health and social care partnerships in Essex to limit the impact on the NHS and the wider health system.
“This involves using critical care capacity elsewhere in Essex and the Eastern region and identifying additional locations and capacity to assist with the discharging of patients to reduce pressure on hospitals.
“Our strong working relationships mean we are able to respond effectively to support our local communities.
“I would also like to pay tribute to all those hard-working colleagues who are working tirelessly to support our communities across the system. They are all doing an amazing job in extremely difficult circumstances.”
Chief Constable of Essex Police and Co-Chair of the Essex Local Resilience Forum, BJ Harrington, said:
“Declaring a major incident enables us to seek further support from the Government to address the severe pressures which the health system is under because of Covid-19.
“The people of Essex have been magnificent and are only dialling 999 or attending A&E in an emergency – we need this to continue because this will help protect the very limited capacity available at our hospitals. Please stay safe; work from home if possible, follow the social distancing rules, and only travel if absolutely necessary.”
County Council shares lockdown plans
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that England will enter into a second national lockdown from Thursday 5 November, Essex County Council (ECC) has been putting plans in place for the continued provision of key services.
The lockdown will have implications for some County Council services, meaning they will be required to adapt their usual operations in order to adhere to new national guidelines.
The second national lockdown won’t involve the same level of restrictions introduced in March and wherever possible ECC services will remain in operation. However, in some instances the national guidelines will mean that some will need to be temporarily paused.
From Thursday 5 November:
Essex Country Parks will remain open, including car parks, children’s play equipment and toilets. Some cafés will also continue to offer a takeaway service in line with government guidance. All visitors are required to follow government guidelines.
Outdoor spaces at Cressing Temple Barns, including the grounds and restored Tudor Walled Garden, will remain open for the benefit of local communities during the national lockdown.
All Essex recycling centres will remain open as per current operating times.
Public transport will continue to operate in line with government guidelines.
Essex Registration Service and Blue Badge Assessments that take place from libraries will continue to operate. Ceremonies of marriage or civil partnership will be unable to take place.
Essex Libraries will be closed to the public in terms of book borrowing. However, some sites will continue to offer public computer use by appointment only. Where possible the Home Library Service will continue. A new click and collect service will be put in place and more details will be shared shortly. The e-library service is still fully accessible. The mobile library service will temporarily be paused.
Essex Outdoor Centres and The Lock climbing wall will close during the national lockdown.
The Essex Record Office will be closed, with certificate service available online.
Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council, said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure vital services remain available to Essex residents through lockdown, in line with government guidance and where needed are adapting services and putting additional measures in place so that they can keep running.
“We are in a much stronger position than the first lockdown back in March - we know what works and can move quickly to implement the appropriate government guidance, as we receive it.
“I would like to thank our residents, businesses and employees for their patience at this time, and remind everyone that the most important thing is that we all play our part, follow the rules and stick to social distancing guidance – if we do, it will mean we exit this second lockdown as soon as possible. But we can only do this by working together.”
Guidance around Remembrance Sunday is being shared on ECC’s social media channels and by District, Borough and City councils and faith organisations.
Further guidance and updates on any changes to other services will also be shared via ECC’s website and social media channels when it is available.
Residents are encouraged to visit our website in the first instance if they have any queries as website content is being regularly updated as and when new guidance is received.
Latest figures from Public Health England have indicated a rise in cases of coronavirus in the Uttlesford District area
The latest figures from Public Health England have indicated a rise in cases of coronavirus in the Uttlesford District area.
Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Uttlesford have risen to the highest level in Essex (64 cases per 100,000 population a week as of 6 October), and also continue to increase more rapidly in Epping Forest (58 cases per 100,000 population a week as of 6 October) and Brentwood at 55 per 100 000. Basildon has also seen an increase, although not to the same extent.
The figures come from the latest Public Health England ‘patch report’, which do not include data from the most recent four days. This is because the most recent data can be unreliable and is likely to change. The figures may therefore vary from those published via other sources, such as the Essex Open Data website, although will eventually agree.
Dr Mike Gogarty, Director of Public Health and Wellbeing at Essex County Council, said: “Sadly we are starting to see faster and faster increases in cases in many areas of Essex. They are now showing exponential increase, so are doubling every few days. Uttlesford’s case levels have increased over the past week and are now approaching 65 cases per 100,000.
“In Uttlesford this looks very much transmission within the community, as there is no evidence which attributes these cases to a particular event, area or outbreak. If cases appear in this way across a district, it makes it much more difficult to manage, contain and prevent further spread.
“Our Contact Tracing team are working hard with colleagues in Public Health and local health protection teams to manage the situation, but we also need the help of the people of Uttlesford. We are asking all residents to please adhere to social distancing of 2m wherever possible, consider what social interactions they are taking part in and limit these as much as possible, and whenever possible, people should work from home.
“We know that we are asking a lot from our residents, and that reducing social interaction brings other concerns and anxieties, but we feel this is necessary to avoid more formal local lockdown rules.
“If you commute to work, it is essential to download and use the NHS Covid-19 App. This will allow your identification if you are in contact with a case so you can take necessary action.”
Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, Cllr John Spence, said: “We can all play our part in preventing the further spread of Covid-19.
“The basics of social distancing are still as important as ever – so please, wear a face covering in shops or enclosed public spaces, wash your hands regularly keep two metres apart from others. If you have symptoms you must self-isolate and book a test as soon as possible.”
Cllr John Lodge, Leader at Uttlesford District Council, said: “The figures indicate that positive cases are now being seen across all age groups, not just younger people as it was some weeks ago, and that is a great concern. If we continue to see a rise in infections we will face greater restrictions which will then have an impact on our local businesses that have been trying so hard to get back on their feet. I urge all residents to redouble their efforts in following the basic rules around hands, face, space, as well as to delay any social activities if they can and to work from home where possible. I’m sure if we all work together we can bring the spread among our community down again. The council’s Community Hub is also still open to support vulnerable residents who need assistance or who are feeling anxious or lonely at this difficult time.”
Councillor Holly Whitbread, Communities Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council, appealed to commuters to be especially careful. She said: “With the Epping Forest infection rate consistently high, we are also appealing to people to work from home wherever possible. We have no specific focus for an outbreak but some cases could be associated with travel on the Central Line. Unless your journey to work is absolutely necessary, please work from home. Slow the spread of the virus and protect your loved-ones from infection.”
Press release from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government
FACE COVERINGS MANDATORY IN SHOPS, SUPERMARKETS, SHOPPING CENTRES AND ENCLOSED TRANSPORT HUBS FROM FRIDAY
• Face coverings will be mandatory in additional enclosed public spaces from Friday - including shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and transport hubs
• New measure an important step in lifting lockdown, as the public are encouraged to play their part
• Venues such as restaurants, pubs and gyms will be exempt
Face coverings must be worn in shops, supermarkets, indoor shopping centres and transport hubs - such as train stations and airports - in England from Friday, as the government takes further steps to help curb the spread of the virus.
Under the new regulations laid today, members of the public will need to wear face coverings - for example, a fabric covering, scarf or bandana - that covers the nose and mouth in additional enclosed public spaces, as well as frequent hand washing and careful social distancing.
It will be compulsory to wear a face covering when buying food and drink to takeaway from cafes and shops. If you are in a premises where you are able to sit down and consume food or drink that you have bought, then you can remove your face covering in order to eat and drink on site.
Face coverings will not be mandatory for anyone under the age of 11, those with disabilities or certain health conditions, such as respiratory or cognitive impairments that make it difficult for them to wear a face covering.
There is evidence to suggest that, when used correctly, face coverings may reduce the likelihood of someone with the infection passing it on to others, particularly if they are asymptomatic.
The government is telling the public to play their part and wear face coverings in order to help fight the spread of the virus, enabling further easing of national restrictions. The responsibility for wearing a face covering sits with individuals. Businesses are encouraged to take reasonable steps to encourage customers to follow the law, including through signs and providing other information in store.
Health and Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“As we move into the next stage of easing restrictions for the public, it is vital we continue to shop safely so that we can make the most of our fantastic retail industry this summer.
“Everyone must play their part in fighting this virus by following this new guidance. I also want to thank the British public for all the sacrifices they are making to help keep this country safe.”
As well as shops and supermarkets, face coverings must be worn in banks, building societies and post offices. Wearing a face covering will not be made mandatory in other venues that have measures in place to protect staff and the public from COVID-19. These include:
• Eat-in restaurants and pubs;
• Hairdressers and other treatment salons
• Gyms and leisure centres
• Cinemas, concert halls and theatres;
For transport hubs in England, the requirements mean face coverings must be worn in indoor train stations and terminals, airports, maritime ports, and indoor bus and coach stations or terminals.
Anyone who doesn’t abide by the regulations - and is not exempt under one of the categories set out in the regulations - could face a fine by the police of up to £100, as is currently the case on public transport. The police have been very clear throughout the pandemic that they will “engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce as a last resort”.
People wearing face coverings are still strongly advised to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before putting one on or taking it off, avoid taking it off and putting it back on again a lot in quick succession, store it in a plastic bag in between washes or wearing, and avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth while wearing one.
Notes to editor:
• The latest guidance will be published on DHSC’s website soon.
• The regulations, made under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984, will include powers for the police to enforce the requirement to wear a face covering.
• You will be expected to wear a face covering before entering any shop or supermarket and must keep this on until you leave. If a shop or supermarket has a café or seating area for you to eat and drink, then you can remove your face covering in this area only. You must put a face covering back on once you leave your seating area.
• Wearing a face covering will not be made mandatory in venues such as:
o Hairdressers and close contact services
o Eat-in Restaurants, cafes and pubs. Face coverings will be required in cafes or take-away restaurants that do not provide table service, other than in designated seating areas.
o Entertainment venues, including cinemas, concert halls and theatres
• Visitor attractions (such as heritage sites or museums)
• Gyms and leisure centres
o Dentists or opticians. But NHS guidance states that face coverings should be worn in hospitals
• Those with the following circumstances are also exempt from wearing a face covering, regardless of the venue:
o Children under the age of 11
o Those with disabilities or the following health conditions:
Breathing difficulties and other respiratory conditions.
Conditions affecting their dexterity, meaning they are not able to put on a face covering.
Mental health conditions such as anxiety or panic disorders.
Other non-visible disabilities such as autism.
Cognitive impairments, including dementia, who may not understand or remember the need to wear a face covering.
Visual impairments, with a restricted field of vision, particularly if any residual vision is at the lower edge of the normal field of view.
Impairments which would make it difficult to put on or take off a face covering safely, accurately, consistently or without pain.
• This list of exemptions is not exhaustive and extends to anyone with justifiable reason for not wearing one on the grounds of health or disability.
You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes (but is not limited to):
• young children under the age of 11 (Public Health England do not recommended face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
• not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
• if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
• if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
• to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
• to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
• to eat or drink if reasonably necessary
• in order to take medication
• if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked:
• If asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
• If asked to do so by shop staff for identification, the purpose of assessing health recommendations, such as a pharmacist, or for identification purposes including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
• If speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication
• It is not compulsory for shop or supermarket staff to wear face coverings although we strongly recommend that employers consider their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place. Employees should continue to follow ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines to reduce the proximity and duration of contact between employees. Businesses are already subject to legal obligations to protect their staff under existing employment law. This means taking appropriate steps to provide a safe working environment, which may include face coverings where appropriate, alongside other mitigation such as perspex screens to separate workers from customers.
• Further regulations will come into force on Saturday 25 July, to open more businesses and venues to the public. This will include swimming pools and water parks, indoor fitness and dance studios, gyms and sport courts.
• On enforcement in transport hubs, transport and hub operators will be expected to remind passengers of the law and if necessary ask people to leave a transport hub if they are not wearing a face covering. It will be for the Police (and British Transport Police on the rail network) to enforce £100 Fixed Term Penalties, or remove people from services. TfL will have the same enforcement and prosecution powers in TfL transport hubs as they currently have in TfL carriages.
Essex organisations respond to COVID-19 impacts on BAME communities
Public services across Greater Essex (Essex, Southend and Thurrock) have set up a task group to respond to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
The group will also share national and local guidance and identify employment sectors where targeted interventions could help reduce disparities, such as those working within the taxi and security industries. It is also exploring commissioning research, ensuring that targeted risk assessments for BAME employees across public services are taking place, and that measures are being put in place to protect staff.
Two recent reports from Public Health England[i] highlighted that the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups is disproportionately high compared to other groups.
Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS)[ii] show that those from a BAME background are more likely to be at risk of being infected with COVID-19. Factors affecting risk of infection are likely to include where they live, socio-economic position, who they live with, and their occupational exposure to the disease.
Taking all these factors and age into account:
Men are much more likely to catch COVID-19 than women in all groups
Black men are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 related causes than white men
Bangladeshi and Pakistani men are 1.5 times more likely to die of COVID-19 related causes than white men
Indian men are 1.6 times more likely to die of COVID-19 related causes than white men
Black women are 1.4 times more likely to die of COVID-19 related causes than white women
The task group has been set up by Essex Resilience Forum (ERF), a partnership of the organisations who respond to emergencies. The group includes representatives from Essex, Southend and Thurrock councils, and health services. It has links into BAME employee networks and faith and community organisations to identify and address local concerns and action that can be taken to reduce disparities in risks and outcomes.
Rt Revd Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester and chair of ERF’s Faith and Communities Tactical Coordination Group, which is leading this work, said: “The evidence is clear that COVID-19 does not affect all population groups equally. We know that infection and death rates from COVID-19 have been higher for Black and Asian ethnic groups. We need to address this. We welcome the PHE report ‘Beyond the data: understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups’ and want to take this work further. We are keen to listen to BAME residents and employees and to identify practical actions that we can all take to reduce the disparities and protect each other. The wider determinants of health include a wide range of personal, social, economic, and environmental factors. The complexity of the task should not deter us. We want to strive for a fairer, healthier and more just society for all people. We want all people to thrive."
Director for Public Health at Essex County Council, Dr Mike Gogarty said: “Coronavirus has not gone away so everybody should still be cautious – keep your distance with adherence to a two metre gap as much as you possible can, wash your hands regularly, wear a face covering in public and be mindful that others may be more vulnerable than you are. Please don’t go out if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Our five-point guidance to help Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents know the risks and what they can do to protect themselves and their families is a positive first step but there is more we will do through this task group.”
Director for Public Health at Southend Council, Krishna Ramkhelawon said: “We are concerned for the public health of all residents and recognise that COVID-19 has affected some communities more. BAME workers who serve the public every day continue to be at risk so I welcome that the task force will look into this.”
Southend.gov.uk coronavirus hub: for the above guidance and for Coronavirus safety tips for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers and passengers. Taxi and private hire drivers are identified as at higher risk because of their work. Many in Essex are from BAME backgrounds. Local councils and ERF produced these safety tips in June 2020
https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus For Government, NHS and Public Health England coronavirus guidance and research.
Public Health England: COVID-19: Review of disparities in risks and outcomes;
Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups
ONS: Coronavirus-COVID-19 related deaths by ethnic group, England and Wales: 2 March to 15 May 2020
How Essex residents can practice their faith safely during pandemic
Faith groups across Essex have given advice on how communities can practice their faith and observe and celebrate religious events and festivals.
With Ascension Day, Eid-Al-Fitr and Shavout all coming up over the next week, faith leaders want to help communities celebrate with their loved ones while staying safe.
Many faith groups are holding virtual sessions for you to worship together while staying safe at home.
If you’re planning to send gifts to family and friends during the holy period of Eid, you can send your gifts in the post or make donations to local causes.
The Muslim Council of Britain has issued guidance and posters that Mosques and community leaders might find useful: https://mcb.org.uk/press-releases/eid-al-fitr-2020/
Faith and community representatives from across Essex, Southend and Thurrock will continue to discuss to hold discussions locally about the concerns and priorities of communities.
Partners across Essex have collaborated to provide support to people seeking bereavement support during a time when restrictions for mourning rituals and funerals are in place. Visit: https://www.essex.gov.uk/coronavirus-and-faith/bereavement-support - support to access across Essex.
Chair of the Essex Resilience Forum, and Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, Rick Hylton, said: “While there are still some restrictions in place that will affect how you would usually observe and celebrate religious events and festivals, we’re seeing lots of faith groups coming together to suggest ways we can still worship together.
“Whether you pray at home alone or with those you live with, or you join in with a virtual session, we want everybody to stay safe.
“Make sure to keep an eye on your food while cooking and stay alert to fire risks in your home. If you do leave the house for exercise or shopping, keep your distance from others and wash your hands as soon as you get back home.”