Update on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and The Council’s Response

Update on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and The Council’s Response 7 August 2020 – Current update For the latest government advice on the coronavirus pandemic, visit (www.gov.uk/coronavirus). Updates on changes that may […]

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Update on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and The Council’s Response

7 August 2020 – Current update

For the latest government advice on the coronavirus pandemic, visit (www.gov.uk/coronavirus). Updates on changes that may affect our area can be found at www.durham.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Public Health England communication materials (posters and social media images) are available for all partners and can be accessed at https://coronavirusresources.phe.gov.uk/.

Update on Durham County Council services

Countywide recovery – This week, we were pleased to find out that we have been successful in bidding for a share of £47 million government funding to improve the region’s infrastructure. The £6 million from the Getting Building fund will cover half the cost of developing the first new building on the proposed Aykley Heads Business Park. The remainder of the money will be provided by the council. The three-storey structure on ‘Plot C’, which represents Phase 1 of the development, will offer 3,500 sqm of office space and create up to 300 new jobs. We also believe it can act as a catalyst for the wider masterplan for the site, with the potential to stimulate more than £150 million of private sector investment and several thousand new jobs in subsequent phases. This is good news for Durham and the wider county as it will provide a significant boost to our economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Restoration and recovery of council services – This week, we have been able to announce the reinstatement of more council services. It is important to remember that the virus has not gone away and that we must do all we can to minimise the risk of it spreading. For that reason, some services may not be quite the same as they were before, but it is also important for our economic recovery that we do try to reinstate as much as we are able. From Monday (10 August), swimming pools at six council leisure centres will reopen to the public. These are Chester-le-Street; Newton Aycliffe; Woodhouse Close; Teesdale; the Louisa Centre, Stanley; and Freeman’s Quay, Durham. Sessions will need to be booked in advance and there will be several changes to allow for social distancing and to reflect public health advice. However, I am sure swimmers will quickly get used to the new routine and will be happy simply to be back in the pool. Durham Town Hall has also reopened this week for the first time since being forced to close in March due to coronavirus. We have also extended opening times from one day a week to three, with visitors welcome from Wednesday to Saturday every week during the summer. Admission to the venue is free and there is no need to book, so it’s a great place to explore with the family over the summer holidays. We have also made the decision to continue with garden waste collections on Saturday and Monday to allow for social distancing. We are in the process of contacting customers to inform them.

Adult social care – Work to support care providers dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is continuing, with a particular focus on helping them remain sustainable during these difficult times. We are now finalising the first payments for care home provider occupancy support and these will be issued in the next week. Ensuring providers are in a position to continue to support our most vulnerable service users is vitally important, so we are pleased to be able to provide this additional support to add to the arrangements already in place to assist providers, both financially and operationally.  We continue to work closely with the Department of Health and Social Care on the expanding national testing programme, as well as assisting local providers to access this and address any problems they may encounter. We are also working on expanded antibody testing opportunities for the social care workforce, with our local NHS colleagues, and hope to finalise details of that offer shortly. The council’s Director of Public Health has also written to all care homes in the county to offer guidance on the resumption of visits to homes where there are no coronavirus cases. This is in line with new national advice on visits by family members, friends, volunteers, advocates, informal carers, health professionals and others. More information is available at www.gov.uk/government/publications/visiting-care-homes-during-coronavirus/update-on-policies-for-visiting-arrangements-in-care-homes.

Financial support for businesses – We have now awarded £98.93 million to 8,843 organisations through the Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Funds. This represents 99.85 per cent of the total we expect to award. We have also allocated £2.86 million to 444 businesses through the Local Discretionary Grant Scheme. This represents almost 57.8 per cent of the £5 million we have available but leaves £2.24 million as yet unclaimed. Earlier this week, our extended Local Discretionary Grant scheme opened to applications, to ensure as much of the money available is allocated to businesses in the county. We are also in the process of proactively contacting those businesses we believe may be eligible for financial assistance to encourage them to apply.

Public Health – Updated public health advice now means that if you have symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus, you should self-isolate for at least 10 days. Also, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days if someone you live with or who is a member of your support bubble has symptoms or has tested positive. If you have been told by NHS Test and Trace that you’ve been in contact with someone who has coronavirus, you will also need to self-isolate for 14 days. I am sure you will be familiar with the main symptoms of coronavirus but, as a reminder, they are:

  • high temperature
  • new, continuous cough
  • loss/change in sense of smell
  • loss/change in sense of taste

If you have symptoms, you and all members of your household should self-isolate and book a test. From tomorrow (8 August), the rules regarding face coverings will changes. It will be mandatory to wear a face covering in more indoor spaces, such as cinemas, theatres, museums and places of worship. A full list of venues is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

We will continue to keep colleagues, members, key stakeholders, partners and residents up to date throughout these changing and challenging times. Information is available on the council’s website at www.durham.gov.uk and our social media channels www.facebook.com/DurhamCouncil and www.twitter.com/DurhamCouncil.

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