Almost 1,000 nurses, frontline council workers and other public sector staff have trailed new lateral flow coronavirus tests in the city, ahead of a national roll-out.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care to trail the new tests before other areas of the country. The new tests involve a swab in the mouth and nostrils, and can give a result in less than an hour. Earlier this week, the government announced 600,000 of the tests will be distributed across the UK as part of the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history.
Between 23 October and 9 November, 927 tests have been carried out on public sector health and essential services workers in the city, and employees in other businesses.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “It has been a real coup to be the first authority to use the testing and we have been working hand-in-hand with the Department of Health and Social Care throughout this pilot.
“Trained nurses have been delivering the tests and we have been able to offer them for staff at council offices and other venues across the city, on a drop-in basis, in Covid-secure environments.
“Significantly, the tests have meant that key workers in our city have been able to continue to deliver the services that residents are relying on at this time. From the trials, a very small handful of people have tested positive, and they have isolated immediately and been supported as they recover.
“The tests have been an extra Covid-secure measure for our staff and other key public sector workers. Staff within the council who provide home care to vulnerable residents have been using them, as have other frontline staff, and office-based employees.”
The council is continuing to work with schools and businesses with a view to rolling out testing to other locations across the city in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, a total of 246 businesses have applied for coronavirus grants in the first day of applications going live. The council has been allocated a total of £4,192,488 through the government’s Local Restrictions Support Grant. The money will be available to businesses instructed to close during the lockdown, such as those in the hospitality, leisure, non-essential retail and personal care sectors. Businesses must apply through the council’s website: www.stoke.gov.uk/businessgrants.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “This money will be a huge shot in the arm for businesses in the city and we want to support as many as possible who are eligible for the funding. We urge businesses to come forward and make an application, and we will be awarding the funding as soon as all the necessary checks are made.”
Under the scheme, eligible businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or less will receive £1,334 for the 28 days; businesses with a rateable value of £15,001 to £50,999 will receive £2,000; and businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 and over will receive £3,000.
Meanwhile, landlords and tenants are being advised of updated national guidance in response to the coronavirus. During the lockdown restrictions, tenants should continue to pay their rent and abide by the terms of their tenancy. The government has made a strong package of financial support available to tenants, and where they can pay the rent as normal, they should do. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity. It is also important that landlords offer support and understanding to tenants who may start to see their income fluctuate.
If tenants fall into financial difficulties due to a change in their employment or earnings, for example, they may qualify for Universal Credit. Property Guardian licence agreements are a valid tenancy arrangement for receiving housing costs support in Universal Credit. Students are also able to claim Universal Credit under certain circumstances. Click here to find out more about Universal Credit.
If a tenant is worried about being unable to pay their rent, or if landlords become aware of tenants who may be in difficulty, advice is available from specialist providers such as Shelter, Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service. If they are eligible for Legal Aid, they can also contact Civil Legal Advice for free and confidential advice.
For the latest information on council services and support during the coronavirus, and frequently asked questions, please visit www.stoke.gov.uk/coronavirus. For latest health advice on the coronavirus, please visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus, and for further information on the virus visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated. If residents have symptoms, please get tested. All residents must continue to follow the guidance of wash hands, cover face and make space.
For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels.