Public health leaders in Stoke-on-Trent are urging residents to be cautious and to consider continuing to wear face coverings and socially distance, especially in busy places, as national coronavirus restrictions lifted.
It comes as Stoke-on-Trent City Council has announced how services such as leisure centres, libraries and bereavement care will operate in order to protect visitors and staff.
The seven-day rate of coronavirus cases in Stoke-on-Trent is now 560.1 per 100,000 people, for the week 8 July – 14 July 2021. There continues to be a significant rise in cases, with an increase of 38.4 per cent on the previous seven days. The percentage of people who have had a test and tested positive is now 12.1 per cent. The figures mean Stoke-on-Trent has the second highest case rate in the West Midlands, and the 28th highest rate nationally.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “It is clear that the infection is continuing to spread, and is doing so rapidly. I’m sure many people will be feeling relieved that the national restrictions have lifted, we have all been through so much over the past 18 months. But it is clearly not the time to disregard the measures that have been protecting our health and the health of others. There will equally be many people who are very anxious about the lifting of the restrictions, and we must all do what residents of this city are famous for – considering other people and supporting each other. By doing this we can stop spreading this horrid virus.
“The best way we can beat the coronavirus is by getting vaccinated, wearing a face covering when indoors in busy places or meeting people you don’t know, making sure you keep your distance from others where possible, washing your hands thoroughly and getting tested regularly and recording your results.
“In line with the lifting of restrictions, we’re making our services as accessible as possible, but with every measure in place to protect visitors and our staff. All of our services have very rigorous risk assessments in place. We have put these to the test over the past week in readiness for the restrictions being lifted.
“We know that we had to close the tip at Hanford a couple of weeks ago after a member of staff contracted the virus outside of work. We anticipate that services may continue to be affected as record numbers of people are being asked to self-isolate. Later this week, we are expecting that bin collections may be impacted. If this is the case, we’ll continue to do all we can and ask households to leave their bins out and we’ll collect them as soon as we can. We know this is already the case elsewhere in the country.
“We are doing all we can to support our staff in being able to carry out the important services that residents in the city rely on, and to do so safely. But in the unfortunate event that any of our teams contract the virus, our focus will be on supporting them, so that they are safe and can become well again quickly. In that scenario, we’ll be working so that services that are most critical to residents can remain operating – those services that support vulnerable children and adults. It may mean that other services reduce or stop. This is the level of detail and consideration we’re putting in place while we manage this difficult time. We want residents to know that we’re working to support them and we’re working to provide safe and protected work environments for our staff. If our services are affected in the future, we ask for residents’ patience and understanding. And we ask that we all do all we can to fight this virus and stop its spread.”
Customers visiting leisure centres are being asked to wear face coverings, unless exempt, until they get to their activity area. They are being asked to continue to pre-book swimming and health spa facilities up to seven days in advance. The need to pre-book the gym will end from 26 July. Visitors are being asked to check-in using NHS Track and Trace QR codes and to observe social distancing wherever possible. One-way systems will remain in place, Perspex screens will be kept in place in reception areas, hand sanitisers will be available throughout centres and individual spray bottles will be available to use during visits. Spectators will be allowed for swimming and gymnastics classes, and lockers, changing areas and showers will reopen.
Restrictions on the number of people visiting Gladstone Pottery Museum have now lifted, however, visitors are strongly advised to pre-book by calling 01782 237777. Visitors are asked to check-in using the NHS Track and Trace QR codes. One-way systems will remain in place in areas included self-guided tours, Perspex screens will be kept at reception points and hand sanitisers will be available throughout the museums. Where possible, contactless payments are preferred to cash payments. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery remains temporarily closed while work to complete the £6m extension to the Spitfire gallery takes place.
At Carmountside Chapel, up to 140 seated people will be able to attend a funeral service, the same number as pre-lockdown. External speakers will be used again for larger funerals, and live streaming of funeral services will be available again for a fee of £40. The reception at Carmountside Cemetery and Crematorium is fully open again, with visitors encouraged to pre-book. Mourners will be able to sing hymns if they wish to, and hand sanitisers will be available, with visitors asked to check-in using the NHS Track and Trace QR code.
At council-run libraries, summer holiday activities will be taking place, with more details available online: www.librariesonline.stoke.gov.uk. Pre-booking is advised for all popular activities. Perspex screens will remain in place, hand sanitisers will be available throughout venues, visitors are again asked to check-in using the NHS Track and Trace QR code, and public toilets will reopen. Face coverings are encouraged for all customers and staff, and customers will be strongly advised that they might like to wear a face covering and socially distance during busy periods, and when in enclosed indoor spaces such as sitting side-by-side or accessing one-to-one IT support. There will no longer be limits on browsing times and all PCs will be back in use. Popular click, call and collect services will continue.
All council-run buildings will be cleaned regularly and thoroughly and will be well-ventilated. Council venues that are booked by third parties to run events must have completed thorough risk assessments in line with public health guidance and to have done this with council public protection and public health teams.
Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “I have been very clear that I will be continuing to wear a mask when out and about in enclosed spaces, in busy areas and when meeting people I don’t know. I will also be continuing to socially distance and to meet outdoors where possible. I encourage all residents to do the same. We are all at risk of catching the coronavirus, even those who are vaccinated. My advice to residents is that, while it is no longer a legal requirement, you should continue to wear a mask and socially distance.
“To protect our staff and other customers, we ask that anyone who feels unwell with coronavirus symptoms does not attend our venues, and to instead take a PCR test and self-isolate until they get their results. We also ask that anyone who has been identified by the track and trace service or the NHS App to self-isolate, in line with national guidance.”
Meanwhile, residents are being reminded of ways in which they can access PCR tests. New slots are added to the national portal throughout the day, but people can also book a home PCR test online at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus
PCR tests are available in the city at Stoke City FC South Car Park, Fenton Manor Car Park and Synetics Solution and can be booked by going to Coronavirus (COVID-19) – NHS (www.nhs.uk) or by phoning 119.