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Following today’s announcement by the Government that Council workers with symptoms of coronavirus are now able to be tested for the virus and can return to work if the results are negative, UNISON Branch Secretary David Houlgate commented as follows:
We welcome this news but this should have happened much sooner. As we have said previously and the Government is now saying, local government workers are the unsung heroes of this crisis, supporting communities across the country during the pandemic, from helping vulnerable people to ensuring our bins are collected. They need certainty and reassurance about their health whilst carrying out this essential work.
We are now examining the detail and looking to work with Harrogate Borough Council to get this information out to all staff as soon as possible.”
In addition, we have made requests that face masks be provided as an additional precaution as there is a school of thought that this can help prevent the passing on of the virus from one person to another. We recognise, however, that there are difficulties in obtaining these.
Our number one priority is the health and safety of the Council’s workforce.
Responding to the letter from Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick to councils on COVID-19 testing for local government key workers, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
Councils want to continue playing a leading role in supporting local communities and the national effort to defeat this disease. As the Secretary of State rightly points out, council staff are doing an amazing job to protect the most vulnerable and keep services running.
Social care staff, those working with vulnerable children and adults, homelessness support services and many others working in councils need to be able to stay on the frontline to help those most in need during this pandemic. Expanding testing to all local government workers is an essential part of this.
The Government’s testing regime should also be complemented by making use of existing local knowledge and skills on the ground.
Where councils do help test those with COVID-19, any demand on existing services would need to be met by additional resources and funding. We look forward to working with the Government on the detail.