Monday 19 July is being dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ in England, when most legal restrictions put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 will end. This final step in the government roadmap out of lockdown removes the legal requirement for social distancing and social contact restrictions. It enables remaining businesses to reopen.
But the pandemic isn’t over and cases of coronavirus are rising again. So it’s vital we remain cautious and play our part in keeping people safe in Sandwell. Thank you for your cooperation in doing this.
The government has published ‘Moving to Step 4 of the roadmap‘, with an emphasis now on a transition towards learning to live with Covid-19.
The main changes at Step 4 for businesses were set out by the government (on Wednesday 14 July):
“From Step 4, social distancing guidance will no longer apply. This means that you do not need to implement social distancing in your business, workplace or venue, and customers and workers do not need to keep apart from people they don’t live with.
The government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, so employers can start to plan a return to workplaces. During this period of high prevalence, the government expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer. You should discuss the timing and phasing of a return with your workers.
Employers and others must continue to follow statutory health and safety requirements, conduct a risk assessment, and take reasonable steps to manage risks in their workplace or setting, as set out in the below guides.”
You can read the government guides on ‘Working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19)‘, which give advice for various situations including construction and other outdoor work; events and attractions; hotels and guest accommodation; offices, factories and labs; restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs and takeaway services; and shops, branches and close contact services.
You can play an even stronger part in ensuring Step 4 happens as safely as possible by ensuring your Sandwell business offers:
* Targeted asymptomatic testing to help people manage their personal risk. Don’t forget that around a half of Covid-19 cases are asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) so people can be spreading the virus without realising. Encourage people to pick up free lateral flow tests from pharmacies in Sandwell.
Of course anyone with symptoms, or a positive lateral flow test, should have a PCR (lab) test to confirm. Covid-19 tests can be booked via the government website.
* A supportive workplace culture that ensures people will isolate when positive or when contacted by NHS Test and Trace or when advised to by the NHS Covid-19 app
* The possibility of a gradual return to the workplace for people who are working from home – helping to minimise the number, proximity and duration of social contacts
* A continued emphasis on cleaning, hygiene and handwashing (you can read the latest cleaning guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive here)
* The continued use of face coverings in crowded areas
* Plenty of ventilation
* Extra compassion for people who may be clinically extremely vulnerable (please see the government guidance on protecting them beyond 19 July) – and anyone who is anxious about the unlocking of restrictions
* The chance for unvaccinated people to have the vaccine at work: here’s more on vaccination and how you can have a clinic set up at your Sandwell workplace.
In high-risk settings (businesses with lots of people, or large events, where people are likely to be in close proximity to people outside their household), organisations will be encouraged to use the NHS Covid Pass scheme. Learn about the NHS Covid Pass for individuals.
Sandwell Council’s Public Health and Regulatory Services departments will continue to make visits to organisations in our borough to ensure workplace safety. Both teams are happy to advise you on your measures to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19. You can contact PHCovid19_Enquiries@sandwell.gov.uk for support.
Please also use that email address to report two or more cases of coronavirus within your workplace. Identifying where and how outbreaks occur continues to be a vital tool in managing the spread of Covid-19.
And, as a consumer, if you feel that a business premises is not doing enough to keep people safe from the spread of coronavirus, such as a shop or pub, please don’t go there.
We wish you and your colleagues a happy, healthy and successful summer – and thank you for your very important role in helping to keep Sandwell as safe as possible.