07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 10.09.20

Dear Member

Hello everyone. We hope you’re all okay and you’re working week is going well so far. The situation with rising Covid infection rates both locally and nationally is clearly a worry and is the main focus of this evenings email update.

Moonshots and the Rule of 6

It would be slightly remiss if we did not begin with a few reflections on the latest government announcements. It is clear that across the country infections rates are on the rise, with a 43% increase in positive case in one week, although thankfully at this point hospital admission rates do not appear to be increasing. There is no one clear reason for this, and we believe it would be wrong to simply attribute it to the behaviour of people in certain areas, but we will not speculate further. It is appropriate that the government re look at the guidance, and how it can be reinforced or fine-tuned to diminish the rate of transmission.  

The rule of six is designed to limit gatherings, but there will be exceptions. The Government also said it would be mandatory for hospitality venues to collect test-and-trace details, which was previously only government guidance. Pubs, restaurants, cafes and other venues will face fines if they do not collect contact-tracing details from customers, in order to improve compliance with NHS test and trace. To help police the new test-and-trace rules, Boris Johnson said “We will boost the local enforcement capacity of local authorities by introducing COVID-secure marshals to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres”. As yet there has been no further detail – What will the role of the marshals be? Are they new roles? Will they be paid? Will local authorities receive extra financial support to facilitate this initiative?

Clearly there are many, as yet unanswered questions. Notwithstanding that these questions need to be answered by Government, we will work collaboratively with the local authority in Wirral to determine what this means for our members and the community.   

It is clear that the current testing facilities are not adequate; the capacity is not adequate and it is wrong to blame it on asymptomatic people getting tests when the government only recently suggested that if people were ‘unsure’ they should get a test. World beating it is not! It requires urgent resourcing and re-organisation. Instead Boris Johnson offered us his vision of a ‘moonshot’, a mass testing programme whereby millions could be tested everyday with the results in twenty minutes and that this should be available by spring or even Christmas. The Government is apparently looking to invest £100 billion in developing this. This sounds fantastic, and indeed it would be if it came off; however the Chief Medical Officer speaking immediately after the Prime Minister tempered expectations:There are a number of challenges, we need the technology to work. We need to source the necessary materials to manufacture so many tests. We need to put in place an efficient distribution network. And we need to work through the numerous logistical challenges.”

It is clearly an ambitious project, and one that if successful would be a significant achievement. But the cost £100 billion is also significant, equivalent to the entire Education budget. We hope that the money is allocated wisely, and not dished out to  private companies without any control or monitoring of expenditure. With the government talking of further austerity and pay freezes, we do have an interest in how our money is spent. And nor should the current testing regime be ignored, we need improvements in it now.  

Wirral and Coronavirus Spike

We are all aware that infection rates in Wirral continue to rise and according to the latest figures stand at 49.7 per 100,000 people rising from 29.9 per 100,000 people the previous week. If this trend continues it is increasingly likely that Wirral may be placed on the Government’s watch list with the potential for a lockdown to follow. Members may have become aware through social media and other channels that there have been positive cases of Covid-19 in at least half a dozen schools in our borough. Whilst this is concerning, Wirral is not alone in this with schools across the country seeing pupils and staff going into self-isolation.

We are aware and are supportive of the steps Wirral Council is taking to try and reduce infection rates. Additional testing stations have been established and more resources put into these service. We recognise that this focus on testing is crucial and whilst we may be critical of the Government’s organising of the testing regime, we recognise the steps that the council along with other local partners are taking to ensure testing capacity is maximised. To support these efforts, Wirral Unison has allocated one of our seconded officers to the testing service for a short period. We know that the council are also looking at getting staff out into the community to raise awareness of the guidance and the steps people and businesses should be following. We support this initiative and we are sure that many of our members will also be keen to support these efforts.

We appreciate that this is a worrying time and will endeavour to keep members up to date with the latest information as we have it. Remember if you have any concerns about your personal safety or safety in your workplace, please get in touch.

UNISON conferences go virtual

Disabled and LGBT+ members are invited to remotely attend a series of events organised specifically for them – online and live. Like many other organisations, UNISON has had to cancel many of its conferences and meetings as a result of COVID-19. But the UK’s biggest union has democracy at its heart and still wants its members to be involved. With this in mind, UNISON’s disabled and LGBT+ members have organised a series of virtual events in place of their usual conferences – online and live. We will be holding the following events:

Disability Live! – 19 to 24 October.
LGBT+ Live!13 to 15 November.

There will be a variety of online sessions that members can participate in during the events.
These events are only open to UNISON members. To attend Disability Live! you must be a disabled member of UNISON. And to attend LGBT+ Live! you must be an LGBT+ member of UNISON. This is in line with UNISON’s commitment to self organisation for under-represented groups. In order to make Disability Live! as accessible as possible, please let us know if there are any adjustments you will need to allow you to take part in a virtual event.

To register your interest in attending either event, please email conferences@unison.co.uk as follows:

Subject heading – the event you would like to attend (if both, please send separate emails)
In your email – please provide:

  • Your name
  • Your membership number
  • Your branch name
  • Any reasonable adjustments you need to participate

The registration deadlines are:
Disability Live! –  Thursday 8 October at 5pm
LGBT+ Live! – Thursday 5 November at 5pm
Once you’ve been registered for an event, you will be sent an email giving details of the virtual sessions you can attend, so you can register for these individually. You can attend as many or as few as you like.

That’s all for today everyone. As always, please feel free to pass our updates on to colleagues and encourage them to join Unison if they haven’t already. Here’s the link to join up! JOIN UNISON

Enjoy your evening and we’ll be back in touch soon with a further update for you all.  

In solidarity!

Your Wirral Unison Team

Branch Office: 0151 666 3040

Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Published on: September 11, 2020