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As you will know from recent media coverage, cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, in particular the Delta variant, which is a ‘variant of concern’ and currently the most dominant variant.

This strain is more transmissible than others, which means that an outbreak amongst your staff, customers or loved ones is likely to affect more people than before, increasing the risk of disruption to your business. The more the virus continues to circulate, the more chance we have that further variants will emerge, that may be able to evade the vaccine. Easing of restrictions has been paused for 4 weeks, with current restrictions remaining for now, but we are doing all we can to manage outbreaks and reduce cases, to increase chances of restrictions lifting soon. For more information on current restrictions, go to – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-coronavirus-restrictions-what-you-can-and-cannot-do.

There are three key ways to protect yourself, your business and the wider community:

1) Vaccination Vaccines remain the best protection we have against COVID-19, including this variant. The vaccination programme is progressing quickly, with all over 18s now being eligible. Please get your vaccine as soon as possible and please support your employees in getting theirs, including the second dose. It is crucial for everyone to get fully vaccinated.

The more people who are vaccinated, the harder it is for the virus to spread and to ultimately reach those who are vulnerable. A toolkit is available to help you encourage take up within your workplace – go to https://coronavirusresources.phe.gov.uk/covid-19-vaccine/resources/employer-toolkit/

2) Testing There are two types of test available – around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms, so all adults are encouraged to carry out lateral flow testing twice a week. This helps identify individuals who could be spreading the virus without realising. You can collect free lateral flow testing kits from pharmacies and local community sites, or order online or by phone for home delivery.

Anyone who develops symptoms – no matter how mild – should arrange a PCR test straight away. Find out more about testing at: www.nhs.uk/gettested

3) COVID-secure premises This strain of the virus is no different from any other in that it is more likely to spread in enclosed areas used by lots of people, including break areas, bathrooms and meeting rooms. The factsheet provided sets out some steps you can take to protect your staff and customers, including ventilating indoor areas which is important in reducing spread. You can contact us for more advice and support via www.digital.stockton.gov.uk/covid19-contactus. Remember – where legally required ensure your customers sign-in or use your NHS QR code poster to help us to limit the spread.

If you would like a COVID marshal visit to offer assistance or advice, contact – 01642 528989.

Support to self-isolate If you have tested positive for COVID-19, or you are a close contact of someone who has, self-isolating is necessary to prevent the virus from spreading. It can be difficult, but support is available to help where it is needed, such as with shopping, prescription collection, general health and social care needs, and signposting to other services. Financial support is also available, which includes the Test and Trace Support Scheme.

For more advice and support with self-isolation, please contact the council’s Customer Services team – 01642 524500 (option 1)