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Council responds to announcement on South Africa COVID-19 variant

Responding to the announcement that testing for the new South African variant of Covid-19 will be starting in the Borough, Sefton Council Leader Cllr Ian Maher said: “I am pleased to see the Government acting promptly to implement this programme to test for the presence and possible spread of this new variant with the aim of bringing it under control quickly.

“I am also confident that our local communities will, as they have throughout the pandemic, follow the guidance on testing, self-isolation and the wider lockdown measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and help protect those who are vulnerable to it.”

Sefton’s Director of Public Health, Margaret Jones said: “Although it seems this new variant can still be combated through vaccination, it could be more transmissible, which means it could spread more quickly.

“That’s why it is important we carry out this additional testing to try and identify it and to limit the number of us who might be exposed to it.

“We will be setting up dedicated test sites for the new variant and once they are in place, I would encourage everyone aged over 16 in the areas targeted to get tested as soon as possible, even though they don’t have symptoms. This will help us find any cases of the new variant and help stamp it out.

“There is no reason for most of us to change our behaviour as a result of this news as long as we are already following the national regulations.

“This means staying at home except for essential purposes such as shopping for essential supplies, going to work if we can’t do so from home and providing care. It also means maintaining at least 2-metres’ distancing, wearing a mask or face covering while out and about and washing our hand frequently.”

Sefton Council and its partners are still working out exactly how the additional tests are going to take place in the light of today’s announcement but comprehensive testing has been in place across the Borough since April. This has been through a combination of pop-up mobile test units at various sites and permanent walk-through testing sites for people with coronavirus symptoms, and three SMART test centres for people with no symptoms.

Testing guidance

To help you take a swab, the NHS has made step-by step guidance videos:

Mrs Jones added: “People across Sefton have taken full advantage of the range of testing available and I am confident those within the area covered by the new variant tests will respond positively to the Minister’s request to get tested. ”

“However, for anyone concerned we will be working with our partners to provide advice and support online and on the ground so that we can work together and continue to make progress towards a return to a more normal life for all of us.”

Positive tests will be sequenced to identify any further spread of the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa, enabling a better understanding of the variant and identifying if there are any more cases of this particular strand of the virus in the area.

In total, Public Health England has identified 105 cases of the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa since 22 December. All cases and their contacts have been contacted and told to self-isolate. Other postcode areas where enhanced testing will be taking place are in London , the West Midlands , the East of England  and the South East.

Announcing the testing, Health and Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “It is vital that we do all we can to stop transmission of this variant and I strongly urge everyone in these areas to get tested, whether you have symptoms or not. The best way to stop the spread of the virus – including new variants – is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place. Until more people are vaccinated this is the only way we will control the spread of the virus.

“The UK is a global leader in Covid-19 genomics, and because of this, we have been able to identify new strains of the virus and take decisive action. We continue to closely monitor new variants, here and around the world, and in addition to our already extensive testing service, we are making surge testing capacity available to affected areas.”

Dr Susan Hopkins, Strategic Response Director to Public Health England and Chief Medical Advisor for NHS Test and Trace said: “As part of our proactive sequencing work, we know that the new variant of Covid-19, first detected in South Africa, has been identified in a number of areas across England. A small proportion of these cases have no link to international travel suggesting that there are some cases in the community.

“In response to this, we are ramping up testing in targeted areas, so we can gather more information and effectively monitor any further community transmission.”

As well as mobile test units, the four local walk-through test centres for people with symptoms are at Bootle Town Hall, Crosby Library Car Park, Netherton Activity Centre and Southport Town Hall. SMART test centres for people with no symptoms who have to go out for work or caring purposes are at Aintree Racecourse, Bootle Leisure Centre and Splash World in Southport.

Details of COVID testing in Sefton.

Dr Andrew Furber, Regional Director at Public Health England North West, said: “The UK has one of the best genomic systems in the world which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in Sefton. I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.

“The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place – limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face. If you test positive by any method, you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus.”

New tips for self-isolating

10 Days of Self-Isolation
10-Days of Self Isolation tips

Self-isolation is when we do not leave our home because we have or might have coronavirus (COVID-19). It helps stop us spreading the virus to other people.

We are all legally required to self-isolate for 10 days if we test positive got coronavirus or are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. We could be fined up to £10,000 if we do not self-isolate.

There are now 10 tips on how to self-isolate for 10 days on our website

Subjects covered include:

  • planning your food and shopping deliveries
  • financial support
  • medical contacts and advice;
  • first aid kit and pharmacy deliveries,
  • caring for others
  • looking after your physical and mental wellbeing
  • stopping the spread of the virus at home and cleaning plans for if someone tests positive
  • arrangements for pet care.

You can find the 10 tips for 10 days here.

Sefton’s Libraries now providing Monday IT Assistance Sessions

From Monday 1st February, Sefton Libraries are offering people assistance with their IT via phone and email.

Between 10am and 12 noon every Monday, Sefton residents can call Crosby Library on 0151 257 6400 where staff will try to help them with basic IT issues such as downloading apps, setting up email or staying in touch using Zoom or Skype. People can also email their enquiries to sefton.libraries@sefton.gov.uk or write in to Crosby Library, Crosby Road North, Waterloo L22 OLQ and a librarian will call them back.

During the pandemic, Sefton Libraries have switched the majority of their activities online. Through their Digital Library Services, people across the Borough have been able to access e-books and e-audiobooks using services such as the BorrowBox and RBdigital apps.

While demand has been high, staff have also noticed a digital divide in the community, both in the provision of IT hardware and skill levels.

The idea for the Monday digital helpdesks grew out of our be Arts Council and National Lottery, Reaching Communities-funded Human Libraries outreach project that uses creative activities to engage with people living in isolation or with poor mental health.

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing said: “Access to books and other materials is vital for people having to stick to the lockdown regulations and self-isolate as well as for parents home-schooling and entertaining their children.

“There has been huge demand for our online services but we want to ensure that as many people as possible can access them, which is where these Monday sessions come in.

“I would urge anyone who is struggling with how to get the best out of their IT to get in touch and hopefully our tech-savvy Libraries staff will be able to help them get connected.”

Details of Sefton’s Library Services and how they are working during COVID-19 can be found at www.sefton.gov.uk/libraries.

Sefton Schools’ successes at Educate Awards

Cllr. John Joseph Kelly, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Safeguarding has welcomed the news that two Sefton schools were announced as winners at last night’s Educate Awards ceremony.

During the online event, Litherland High School were announced as Most Inspirational Secondary School Award and also came runner up in The Communication Award category.

And, Netherton Moss Primary School won the Outstanding Arts in Primary School Award.

Viewers were also wowed by Formby High School’s pre-recorded performance of Stormzy’s ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ which opened the show. The school was named runner up in the Outstanding Commitment to Arts in Secondary School.

Excellence

Cllr Kelly said: “I am delighted to hear of the success of these Sefton schools in these awards that recognise excellence across Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

“Well done to all the pupils and staff at Litherland High School and Netherton Moss Primary School involved and also to those at Formby High School for their inspring performance to open the ceremony and for being runners up in the Outstanding Commitment to Arts in Secondary School.”

The ceremony, in partnership with Copyrite Systems and Ricoh, took place virtually and was streamed on YouTube, due to the current coronavirus restrictions in place.

Reactions

Presented by broadcaster Simon ‘Rossie’ Ross, the live ceremony connected with judges and sponsors, via Zoom, who revealed the winning schools. The event then crossed live to the individuals from the winning schools to find out their reaction in real time.

Each of the 21 awards focus on different aspects of school life, including careers and enterprise, STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, SEND (special educational needs and disabilities), as well as sport, the arts and mental health and wellbeing.

Congratulations

Kim O’Brien, founder of the Educate Awards, said: “A huge congratulations to all the winning Sefton schools! I would also like to say a big well done to the runners-up, those who were shortlisted and everyone who took the time to enter last year. You should all be very proud of yourselves!

“It has been really tough for those working in schools and we are so pleased that we have managed to find a way to shine a spotlight on the hard work and dedication that goes on inside and outside of school. We hope this has given a much-needed lift to those in education, given the incredibly challenging times we are going through at the moment.”

You can watch the Educate Awards ceremony here.

Cllr Hardy thanks Sefton’s voluntary, community and faith organisations for their ‘amazing’ support for vulnerable residents

Our Housing & Communities Cabinet Member Cllr Trish Hardy has written to Sefton’s voluntary, community and faith organisations to thank them for their ‘amazing’ support for our vulnerable residents.

Here’s her letter.

To – all voluntary, community and faith organisations

Dear all

I would like to thank you all for your continued support to our local residents and for your ongoing support to Sefton Council throughout this pandemic. Your response to supporting our vulnerable residents has been amazing with many of you doing befriending calls, shopping, food support, dog walking and general wellbeing contact. Without you and the contribution of your volunteers many of our residents would have struggled in this last year.

As you know our priority now as a country and as a borough is to get this pandemic under control and the only way to do that is to follow the guidance and the rules around social distancing, washing hands and covering our faces. Your help to cascade these messages within your communities is needed now more than ever.  We also need to ensure that we are not doing anything that may undermine the key messages, such as organising community events or anything that brings together large groups of people for litter picking or environmental clean-ups etc. In normal circumstances I would be the first person to encourage this type of activity but now is not the time to be doing such activities, however well intended.  It is fine for households to undertake litter picks but only with the people they live with and I would ask you through your social media channels to perhaps encourage families to get involved in keeping their own streets and local parks clean and to do safely and only with those people that they live with.

We need the support of our community and voluntary organisations to model the behaviours that we would like our wider residents to follow and I am asking for your help to ensure that the clear public health messages and guidance is followed. That is the only way we can get back to normal. All Covid advice and information can be found here: COVID-19 in Sefton

There is light in sight though with the roll out of the vaccination programme and I just want to thank many of you for your support around the delivery of this. I know Sefton CVS are recruiting volunteers to support the roll out so please go the link and sign up and encourage your members and your residents through your social media pages to get involved. For more information on the volunteering roles and to sign up to become a Vaccination Volunteer please visit; volunteeringsefton.org.uk/vaccination-volunteer/

Finally I hope to be able to go out and visit many of you in the coming months when we are able to get back to face to face gatherings and community events and activities.

Many thanks

Trish Hardy's signature

Cllr Trish Hardy

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