Residents are being reminded of the new coronavirus rules, as Stoke-on-Trent today (Wednesday) enters into ‘very high alert’ restrictions.
The lifting of the month-long national lockdown has seen the city, like many other parts of the country, move into ‘tier three’ restrictions. This means that:
- No mixing is allowed anywhere indoors with other households, unless part of your support bubble.
- Up to six people can meet in outdoor public spaces, but not in private gardens.
- Hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants must stay closed, apart for takeaways and drive-through services.
- Gyms and non-essential shops can reopen.
- You must work from home if you can, and avoid non-essential travel and no overnight stays outside the area.
- Wedding receptions are not allowed.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “We remain at a really critical phase in our city’s response to the coronavirus. The seven-day infection rate is continuing to fall – to 360 per 100,000 people in the week to 27 November. This is down 21 per cent in seven days, but there is still a long way to go. The government will review the tiers on 16 December, which means we have a short amount of time to make a big difference to these figures.
“We know infection rates still remain much higher in the city than the national average and although our rates continue to fall, we are starting from a much higher position. It means that the build-up to the Christmas period is really crucial. There still remains a lot of pressure on our local hospitals. While some aspects of our daily lives can return to a degree of normality – for example, we can go to the hairdressers, we can do our Christmas shopping, we can go to the gym – we are still at a critical phase and the actions we all take now will determine if our rates continue to fall.
“Earlier this week, I wrote to the Prime Minister to request additional funding for the city’s hospitality sector. A lot of businesses have shown great spirit and entrepreneurialism to adapt since the start of the pandemic. However, many are still struggling under the tiering system.
“Now the government has announced that pubs that predominantly serve alcohol rather than provide food will be eligible for a one-off £1,000 Christmas grant to help make ends meet. It will be paid on top on the existing £3,000 monthly cash grants for businesses. This is good news for businesses that have been asked to make huge sacrifices over the festive season, and we await details from government as to how this will be administered. We will continue to do all we can to support businesses at this time.”
Residents are reminded that there are five measures used to determine what tier an area is in, and Stoke-on-Trent will be assessed on the response to:
1: The all-age seven-day case rate
2: Over-60s seven-day case rate
3: How steep the gradient of fall in 1 and 2
4: The positivity rate – the percentage of coronavirus tests performed to find a positive Covid-19 case to indicate how widespread the infection is in an area
5: Pressure on the Royal Stoke University Hospital.
Meanwhile, the council’s six Covid stewards have been in place for around 10 days now and have been busy supporting residents, shoppers and businesses in signposting them to help available and reminding them of the coronavirus rules.
They have visited town centres, communities and high footfall locations across the city, including visiting markets and the city centre bus station. They work in three teams, and have been out in all six of the towns. Their work is targeted so that they pay particular focus to wards in the city with higher cases of the virus. This week they have been in the Moorcroft ward, and visiting larger shops such as a supermarket in Cobridge and local schools.
The stewards visit approximately 120 stores and premises or locations a day, in all wards and neighbourhoods, providing advice and making notes of any non-compliance for a return visit.
Councillor Brown said: “The stewards have been speaking to residents when they are out across the city, ensuring people understand where they can get a test if they need one and other advice and signposting, such as where they can get support in terms of mental health and financial help, when to isolate and homelessness services.
“They have also visited a number of schools at drop off and pick up times and provided advice, giving support where parents have children in different year groups and are having to wait in more confined areas. They are working with schools on support in these areas.
“Stewards visited Hanley Park last Thursday (26 November) and found a group of 10 people playing cricket together, and were able to tell them to stop and explain the rules to them. Similarly, they have found two couples playing bowls in our parks and advised them to stop. Supermarkets have specifically requested steward visits, after concerns that shoppers weren’t wearing face coverings so we have been able to work with and advise shoppers.
“We have had good examples of stewards visiting shops to give advice and then returning and seeing that the premises have followed all the guidance. For example, a takeaway in the city centre was visited yesterday morning (Tuesday) and we spoke to the manager about signage needed, social distancing arrangements to be put in place and floor spacing. We returned in the afternoon and all of the guidance had been followed.
“The stewards will be continuing to carry out visits right across the city. If you see them, please do say hello. They are approachable and friendly and are there to support you. They are not in place to carry out enforcement, but are able to help.”
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.