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Testing times - what is the new 'normal' exactly?
Date
Tue, 05 Apr 2022
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Confused by all the new COVID-19 guidance, the end of free testing and returning to the office? 

Read our common questions below for the latest update from public health. 

Can I come back to the office officially now? How do I keep myself and colleagues safe? 

The launch of the new blended working arrangements and the phased return to the office started on Monday, 28 March 2022 for those working in council offices. 

While national guidance around restrictions changes, staff returning to the office are encouraged to be responsible and keep everyone safe, including colleagues who may be unvaccinated, at high-risk or vulnerable by:  

  • keeping rooms well ventilated 
  • washing hands regularly with soap and water 
  • wearing a face covering in communal spaces, including toilets and kitchens (unless exempt) 
  • knowing your risk, particularly if interacting with anyone vulnerable 
  • regularly cleaning desks, equipment and frequently used touch points 
  • being mindful and giving others space 
  • following room occupancy advice 
  • staying at home if you have COVID-19 symptoms or feel unwell. 

When will the safe systems of work guidance likely be reviewed? 

Until the new national guidance is reviewed by public health, the council will continue to follow the above safe systems of work and maintain a risk assessment approach across all council sites.  

This is likely to remain in place until the end of April 2022, due to the current impact of COVID-19 infections across the East Riding, and the picture throughout England generally. 

Despite the national government guidance changing, it remains the council and public health's priority to continue to keep everyone safe, sound and protected from COVID-19. 

When the guidance is reviewed by public health, the most up-to-date advice will be found at: https://insight.eastriding.gov.uk/return-to-the-office/ 

What should I do if I am feeling unwell and have COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms? 

The current agreed public health advice for council staff is that if an individual has symptoms or feels unwell, they should inform their manager in the first instance and self-isolate at home, and work from home (if they can and are well enough).  

If staff still have access to Lateral Flows Tests at home, whilst we are experiencing high transmission rates, it is sensible to take a test from five days and decide to stop self-isolating the day you get a second negative result, if you can do this.  

Remember, the date of a positive test or symptoms starting is classed as day 0. LFTs are advised to be taken 24 hours apart. Public health advises there is a lower risk of onward transmission after five days, alongside enhanced hand-washing and wearing a face covering (if you can).  

Further advice for colleagues regarding when they should return to work after symptoms, or a positive COVID-19 test will be shared after the new guidance has been reviewed by both the council and public health. 

Information about what to do in the event of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace and the procedures in place can be found here: https://insight.eastriding.gov.uk/safety-at-work/safe-systems-of-work/#jump-0 

What does the national guidance advise the general public to do after 1 April? 

The national guidance recommends that after 1 April, people with symptoms of a respiratory infection, including COVID-19, and a high temperature or who feel unwell, should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until they feel well enough and they no longer have a high temperature. This includes school children. 

Any adults with a positive COVID-19 test result will also be advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days, which is when they are most infectious. The advice for children and young people under the age of 18 is to try to stay at home for three days (unless they still have a fever). 

You are also advised to avoid meeting people at higher risk from COVID-19 for 10 days after symptoms or a positive test. 

Further advice is available at GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/people-with-symptoms-of-a-respiratory-infection-including-covid-19 

Free testing ended last month, what does this mean for my household? 

Most people in England won't get free PCRs or LFTs after 1 April 2022.  

If you still want to get tested and you're not eligible for a free NHS test, you will have to pay for a test yourself. LFTs will continue to be available to buy from pharmacies and supermarkets, including online. 

The government has also published a list of suppliers who have demonstrated compliance with the relevant minimum standards: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/list-of-private-providers-of-coronavirus-testing/list-of-private-providers-of-coronavirus-testing 

Who will be eligible for free testing? 

Asymptomatic LFTs will continue to be required for next month at least, in some high-risk settings where infection can spread rapidly while transmission rates are high. 

Frontline NHS and social care staff will continue to have access to tests. If someone has a health condition which means they are eligible for new COVID-19 treatments, they should be sent LFTs to use if they have symptoms. 

The current LFT ordering portal will remain available for these groups to order their own tests in the future. Please do not order via the portal if you are not eligible.  

For those visiting loved ones in adult social care settings, only a small number of visitors providing personal care will now have access to free LFTs, and they will only be required to test twice weekly. General visitors will have to pay for their own tests if they wish to test beforehand.  

If you need to go into hospital for treatment and are required to take a PCR test, you will be advised how to access a free test in these circumstances. 

The main changes are explained on the NHS site: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing/get-tested-for-coronavirus/ 

Vaccine update 

Don't forget to get your 'Spring' booster! 

Invites have been going out over the past two weeks in East Riding, for:  

  • adults aged 75 years and over 
  • residents in care homes for older adults 
  • individuals aged 12 years and over who have a weakened immune system. 

You are advised to wait until the NHS contacts you before booking a 'Spring' booster. The local NHS vaccine team have confirmed you can use the walk-ins/vaccine bus for this jab, but you are advised to pre-book if you can, wait six months from last dose, and bring invite to be on safe side if you attend a walk-in clinic.  

Book now on the NHS site: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/ 

Vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 

Vaccine sites are being set up now in the East Riding for children aged 5 to 11 with no underlying health conditions to be offered two paediatric (child) doses of the vaccine, with 12 weeks between doses. Letters will be sent to parents/guardians shortly inviting them to book their child's vaccine.  

Alternatively, parents can choose to book now on the NHS site for some local pharmacies, once their child is aged five years old or over: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/ 

More information is available on the GOV.UK site: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-resources-for-children-aged-5-to-11-years 

Please contact people services or public health to discuss any individual risk assessments that may be required, in addition to current council policy: hr.helpdesk@eastriding.gov.uk or covid19@eastriding.gov.uk 

Visit https://covid19.eastriding.gov.uk/ for the latest local advice and guidance. 

 

 

 

 

 

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