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Coronavirus case rates begin to fall, and care providers must apply for staff self-isolation exemptions in exceptional circumstances

Published: Thursday, 29th July 2021

Coronavirus case rates in Stoke-on-Trent have begun to fall to below England and West Midlands averages, but residents are urged to continue to get vaccinated and tested to stop the spread.

Coronavirus case rates in the city have begun to fall to below both England and West Midlands averages, but residents are being urged to continue to get vaccinated and tested to stop the spread of the virus.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has revealed that the seven-day rate of coronavirus cases is now 447 per 100,000 people, for the week 16 – 22 July, a 25.4 per cent decrease on the previous seven days. The percentage of people who have had a test and tested positive is 12.2 per cent. Cases are widespread across the city, with hotspot areas in Bentilee and Ubberley.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “It is really encouraging that case rates have begun to fall. Our case rates are now the 73rd highest in England and 7th highest in the West Midlands – just a week ago we were 27th and 2nd respectively. The West Midlands seven-day case rate is 453 per 100,000 people and the England figure is 448 per 100,000 people, so we are now just below both.

“This is exceptionally good progress and demonstrates the protective effect of the vaccine and how many people are still choosing to protect themselves - following the hands, face, space and fresh air guidance, and getting tested at least twice a week. We can’t state enough the significance of these measures; there is clearly a long way to go, but if we all continue to follow this guidance we will lower the case rate.

“I’d particularly like to thank businesses for their hard work both through the pandemic and as we move out of it – by acting responsibly and maintaining covid-secure measures, they are helping to stop the spread of the infection. It’s really important that businesses continue to display NHS QR code posters and request contact details from visitors and customers who don’t have the app, to support NHS Test and Trace arrangements, that they keep hand sanitisation stations in their premises, and that staff are still able to wear face coverings or visors.

“We continue to support businesses across the city, since the start of the lockdown last March, we have given more than £96m in support grants to help businesses keep going – money that we worked hard to administer as quickly as possible because we know what a lifeline it has been to so many people in the city. Our public protection team have been out to visit and advise premises on covid-secure measures throughout the pandemic, and should any businesses have any queries, they can contact the team on public.protection@stoke.gov.uk.”

Meanwhile, care home providers in the city are being advised of national changes to both vaccination and self-isolation rules. The government has announced that people working in a CQC registered care homes (for younger adults as well as all care homes caring for older people) will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 11 November 2021. This includes all managerial, catering and administrative staff as well as those providing hands on care. It also applies to any tradesman or professional visiting the home indoors for the purposes of work. This will not apply to those who are medically exempt.

The Government announced on Monday, 19 July double-vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff in England who have been told to self-isolate will be permitted to attend work in exceptional circumstances and replaced by testing mitigations. City council public health bosses are telling care homes not to not take it upon themselves to decide that staff can be exempt from self-isolating.

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “Our care homes and care providers have been tremendous since the start of this pandemic – providing care for some of our most vulnerable residents and helping to protect them as much as possible from the virus and ensuring that they receive their vaccinations. I want to say a massive thank you for their hard work and support.

“I want to reassure care homes and providers that our teams are working through the new Government legislation and guidance in relation to care home staff needing to be fully vaccinated by 11 November and self-isolation exemption to work out how we can best support those in our city. In the meantime, I cannot stress enough the importance of staff self-isolating immediately if they receive a positive COVID-19 test, have COVID-19 symptoms or are told by NHS Test and Trace self-isolate. Care homes must not take it upon themselves to decide that staff can be exempt from self-isolating. Only in exceptional circumstances will some cases not have to self-isolate, but these exemption requests will be authorised by myself as the director of public health.

“We will be communicating with care homes and care providers the new changes and a self-isolation exemption form will be sent out to care homes and providers, and requests will be made through this and sent back to us. A decision will then be made based on the information in this form. More information can be found, and the form itself, can be found on https://www.stoke.gov.uk/info/20095/coronavirus_covid-19_closures_and_information/462/self-isolation_exemption_for_care_home_providers and any questions can be sent to  covid19@stoke.gov.uk