COVID-19 UPDATE – Thursday 2 July 2020
Please find below the latest update.
Chief Executive appointment
Terence Herbert has now been appointed as the Chief Executive of Wiltshire Council.
This follows a period of consultation on a proposed change to the Tier 1 structure at the council which sees a reduction from two Chief Executive Officers to a single Chief Executive leading the council.
Members of the Officer Appointments Committee panel approved Terence’s appointment when they met on 26 June. They also approved an application for voluntary redundancy from Alistair Cunningham.
Terence has now taken up his role and will be working with myself and cabinet to shape the organisation moving forwards and lead the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Changes to Cabinet and Portfolio Holders
I have made changes to the council’s Cabinet and Portfolio Holders to align with the recovery structure now being put in place within Wiltshire Council following COVID-19.
The changes, which came in from yesterday (1 July), will see Cllr Allison Bucknell step down from her Cabinet position and take up a new Portfolio Holder role for Communities, Arts, Heritage and Tourism. This will reduce the number of Cabinet members from nine to eight, and the number of Portfolio Holders has also been reduced from 14 to 10.
You can view the changes on our website http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/news/articles/cabinet-changes
I thank everyone for their hard work in their roles.
Council dismisses lockdown suggestions
We have dismissed suggestions the county could be one of the next locations in the country to go into lockdown.
Media reports this week had stated there had been a recent weekly increase of new cases in the county of 300%. However this actually equates to an increase from one to four new cases.
Since the start of the pandemic until 26 June there has been 550 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Wiltshire Council area, still comparatively low nationally, and the South West remains the lowest ranked region for cases. Wiltshire Council also has the sixth lowest rate of cases per 100,000 resident population with 110.4 cases per 100,000. This data is taken from the Public Health Coronavirus Case website https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/#category=utlas&map=rate
We have now published our Local Outbreak Management Plan which will build on local expertise and effective health protection processes that are already in place and outlines how the council and partners will positively engage with the public so they’re fully aware and supportive of the crucial part they have to play in the process.
The government has identified seven themes that are deemed essential to plans to manage an outbreak effectively. They are:
- Care homes and schools
- Identify high risk settings, communities and places
- Local testing capacity
- Contact tracing
- Data integration
- Vulnerable people
We will work with the government to support test and trace services in local communities, taking a place-based approach to containing the spread of the infection as much as possible.
Effective governance will also play a critical part of the process. A Wiltshire Outbreak Engagement Board will be set up imminently, chaired by myself, and this will ensure that local residents and other stakeholders in the public, private and third sectors all understand and support the need to comply with the rules and principles designed to prevent viral transmission.
Today (1 July) Kate Blackburn Interim Director for Public Health at Wiltshire Council, said “Following our update yesterday (30 June 2020) about media reports suggesting there was the potential for a local lockdown in Wiltshire I wanted to respond to some queries we’ve had about pillar 2 testing results. We do have access to these results locally and have been using them in all of our local planning.
“Please be reassured that even including pillar 2 confirmed test results the number of confirmed cases in Wiltshire remains extremely low. On a daily basis we review a number of different reports and data with our Public Health England colleagues. Should there be any issues there are alert systems in place.
“The most important thing we can do as a community at the moment is to stick to the national guidance around social distancing and maintain good hand hygiene.
“I would like to thank you for your continued support at this time.”
You can read more about testing on GOV.UK.
You can see a video version of Kate’s statement on our YouTube channel.
Public urged to act responsibly ahead of pubs reopening
We have joined forces with Wiltshire Police to remind residents to play their part and act responsibly when pubs reopen this weekend.
At the end of June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that pubs, restaurants, and hotels could reopen from 4 July.Several other businesses will also be allowed to reopen, such as barbers, hair salons and cinemas.
Whilst this is a positive step forward in revitalising the economy and showing that Wiltshire is open for business, it is important the public continue to take extra precautions to stop coronavirus from spreading and ensure they act responsibly at this time as anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.
As the licensing authority we have an important role in ensuring pubs and restaurants are opening with the right conditions in place and adhering to social distancing guidelines.
To help with the reopening, the government will also relax the two metre social distancing rule, replacing it with ‘one metre plus’ in situations where keeping two metres apart is not possible.
This means people can maintain one metre apart, as long as other measures are put in place to limit the transmission of the virus.
These include wearing a face mask or covering, installing plastic screens, and providing extra handwashing facilities.
Government guidance update – shielding programme
The government has updated its guidance for people who are shielding, taking into account that COVID-19 infection rates have decreased significantly over the last few weeks. This guidance remains advisory.
From Friday 6 July:
- People who are shielding no longer need to observe social distancing with other members of their household.
- People who are shielding will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to six people they do not live with, while maintaining social distancing.
- People who are shielding can create a ‘support bubble’ with one other household. All those in a support bubble will be able to spend time together inside each other’s homes, including overnight, without needing to socially distance.
From Saturday 1 August, the government is advising people to adopt strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures. Strict social distancing means people may wish to go out to more places and see more people but they should take particular care to minimise contact with others outside of their household or support bubble.
From 1 August:
- Those shielding can visit shops, places of worship and outdoor spaces.
- People shielding will be able to return to work if they cannot work at home as long as the business is COVID-safe.
- Children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can return to their education settings if they are eligible and in line with their peers.
More detailed guidance will be provided as the changes in advice come into effect on 6 July and 1 August.
Those in receipt of central government provided food boxes and medicine deliveries will continue to receive this support until the end of July if required. Anyone requiring this assistance should register online or call 0800 028 8327 before 17 July.
Wellbeing Hub update
The council has changed the opening times of the Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub to reflect a reduction in emails and calls to its hotline.
The hub will now operate from 9-5pm Monday to Friday and will be closed at weekends. Outside of these hours, the emergency duty service will be in place as usual.
Business Update – Local Discretionary Grant
The application window for the Local Discretionary Grant closed at 5.00pm on Monday 22 June.
The council received 736 applications and has sent out its first grants totalling circa £1 million to local businesses with further grants being issued this week.
The council has received confirmation of £227,000 funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) to progress the first five road reallocation schemes in the county.
The five schemes, in Salisbury, Bradford on Avon, Purton, Trowbridge, and Chippenham, are based on existing bus routes and will link the city and town centres with homes and places of work to make it easier and safer for pedestrians and cyclists to access shops, businesses and places of work without driving or using public transport.
Full details of the five projects are as follows:
- Salisbury cycleways to link Harnham to the city centre, allowing cyclists easy access to the city. The scheme will see one southbound lane on Brown Street turned into a cycleway and the removal of on-street parking on Exeter Street to create a cycleway on the street while maintaining two-way traffic.
- A segregated cycleway and footway on the B3108 between Winsley and Bradford on Avon, allowing easy access between the two, and giving cyclists the option of a traffic-free ride from Winsley, into Bradford on Avon and then on to Bath along the Kennet and Avon Canal.
- On the A420 in Chippenham, a segregated cycleway linking Bumpers Farm to the town centre, giving cyclists easy access to the centre of the town.
- The removal of through traffic on Hook Street in Purton, which runs parallel with the A3102 between Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon. This will install a 3.5km route for cyclists and walkers, linking Purton with Swindon’s Lydiard Park.
- A segregated cycleway on the A361 Hilperton Road in Trowbridge, from near the fire station into advisory cycle lanes from Stancomb Avenue to Hilperton Road roundabout, of more than 1km in total.
Work is due to start in the next four weeks on these schemes, and the council will have more to announce on the next round of funding, and other major cycling and walking projects, soon.
Re-opening of children’s play areas operated by Wiltshire Council
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 23 June regarding the reduction of restrictions to public movement, the council will be reopening the 59 play areas it operates from 4 July.
The council will be erecting signage onsite to advise the public of social distancing, hygiene and safety rules and will be monitoring use of play areas when they reopen. Council officers may re-close any play area where it is considered not possible to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection and will respond to further guidance issued by the government in respect of their use.
For all town and parish council’s looking at the reopening of play areas, please find links to the governments’ updated guidance on managing playgrounds and outdoor gyms and safety in outdoor spaces. to assist in your own decision making.
Library service update
The council is seeking the views of residents and library users to help with its planning for reopening library services safely in the county during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this challenging time the council has to manage its resources carefully and has put forward three possible options for how the service might operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. People are also being encouraged to provide their own ideas to help the council deliver the most appropriate service in the circumstances and within the council’s current resources.
The possible options take into account COVID-19 guidelines and social distancing measures and the resources available – meaning that there will be a partial and phased reopening of library services.
The possible options being considered include:
- Option 1
An order and collect service.
This involves customers contacting the library service by email/phone to request books or other materials that they wish to borrow. This might include specific authors or topics such as crime or autobiographies. These would then be collected in person from a library.
This would operate from 10 August at some main library hubs in Wiltshire, and in each of the 18 community areas across the county by the end of September. This means that 20 libraries could potentially be open by the end of September, subject to staff and finances being available.
- Option 2
An order and collect service with bookable computer access.
The order and collect service as detailed above and the ability to pre-book a computer session for those without access to the internet.
This would operate from 10 August at some main library hubs in Wiltshire and in each community area across the county by the end of September.
- Option 3
A socially distanced service offering the public some access to browse stock and use computers. This would operate in up to six libraries from the end of August and a maximum of a further four, subject to staff capacity and social distancing requirements.
A four-week public consultation is now underway. Hard copies will be made available at County Hall, Trowbridge; Monkton Park, Chippenham; and Bourne Hill, Salisbury. The consultation closes on 26 July 2020.
Following analysis of the feedback received, the favoured option will likely be introduced initially for a six-month period from 10 August. Monthly reviews will also be carried out to assess how the impact of COVID-19 is changing, the financial impact of operating, lessons learnt and the opportunities for change.
In the meantime, the council’s libraries service has a range of online resources for Wiltshire residents. They can be found at http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/libraries-online-resources.
New affordable homes at Porton
The council has agreed a partnership with developer Cavendish and Gloucester Properties to build six new affordable council houses at the Chalk House development in Porton.
The affordable homes, which will be ready in the late autumn, represent a significant investment, which will be funded from the rents charged on the new homes and income to be received through the shared ownership sales.
The development will consist of two two-bedroom shared ownership houses, which will be available for purchase, with the remaining properties – three two-bedroom houses and one three-bedroom property – offered as affordable rents. Each of the homes are being built to a high standard with a modern specification, and the properties will be advertised via Homes4Wiltshire around six weeks prior to their completion.
The council is committed to building or acquiring 1,000 affordable homes throughout Wiltshire over the next 10 years, and this development will go towards meeting some of this target in the south of the county.
Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue service
Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has produced a short video which summarises some of the major incidents they have attended and the good work being achieved across all of its departments.
This is produced quarterly and is made publicly available on the Service’s YouTube channel. The link to the latest video is here: https://youtu.be/rIegTTKFSI8
We hope you will find this informative in summarising some of the wide-ranging work carried out by your fire and rescue service. We also hope that it will be useful if you wish to share the video as part of your communications and engagement with your communities.
Chippenham Minor Injury Unit to re-open for booked appointments
The Minor Injury Unit (MIU) at Chippenham Community Hospital will start to receive referrals from NHS 111 from Monday 6 July 2020. Chippenham MIU will have appointments available from Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm for patients who have rung NHS 111 and are referred to be seen in the MIU. Chippenham MIU closed in April after a decline in the number of patients attending since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Staff employed at the units were redeployed to help look after patients across the local health and care system.
The MIU will not be open to ‘walk in’ patients and there will be no x-ray facility on site. This temporary change in service has been designed to maintain the safety of patients and staff. Patients will not be able to directly book an appointment. NHS 111 will continue to triage all appointments and if a patient meets the criteria they will be referred to the unit and a member of staff will call them back to arrange an appointment. Anyone with a life threatening condition should call 999.
Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should not attend any medical setting unless explicitly directed to do so by the NHS 111 service or a 999 call operator.
Minor Injury Units offer a facility for treating injuries that are not serious, such as sprains and strains; minor burns and scalds, wound infections, insect and animal bites, and minor injuries to the eye, head. They are not specifically equipped to treat more serious conditions.
Cllr Philip Whitehead