Coronavirus – Latest advice
Wednesday 18 March
Purpose of the briefing
This briefing is to keep you updated on the evolving situation around Coronavirus (now called Covid-19) and the actions being taken in the district. This information can be shared widely. We are issuing this to all staff, members, parish councils and the Chichester MP.
- New guidance has been issued by the government and an update about economic measures has been announced.
- The country is effectively on voluntary lockdown.
- From this point, when council meetings are referred to, this does not necessarily mean face-to-face and can include virtual meetings.
We have been busy testing our business continuity plans.
Our focus is currently on our critical services, which are:
- Revenues and Benefits
- Community Support
- Support to Businesses
- Waste and Recycling Collections
It is our priority to make sure that these services continue to be delivered and so we will be asking staff from other teams to temporarily support these areas. This is so that we can meet additional demand and account for any staff who may become ill with the coronavirus within these areas. Due to this, a number of other services will not be delivered for the foreseeable future. A full list of these services will be provided within a future briefing.
- The Novium Museum has been closed to the public.
- As things stand, our customer service centre is still open, but we are discouraging people from coming in and instead want them to use online services at www.chichester.gov.uk or if they do not have online access, then to call by phone to 01243 534734.
- The depot is still carrying out MOTs and taxi safety checks.
- Due to Government guidance, this week’s Farmers’ Market has been cancelled.
Support for vulnerable people
West Sussex County Council is the lead for the area’s Vulnerable People’s Plan, but we will be supporting them with this work. West Sussex County Council is creating local hubs for groups through their libraries. Those who want to offer support should email Volunteering@westsussex.gov.uk Another option is to contact Voluntary Action Arun and Chichester www.vaac.org.uk who can provide advice and guidance, and signpost people to volunteers in their area.
While the majority of people genuinely want to help, there are always some who will take advantage of a difficult situation. We want people to be on their guard against those who may offer services around shopping and other support who may not be as genuine as they seem. Our advice would be to only take up offers of help from people you know, or from organisations that you are aware of and ask to check any ID. Please also pass this advice on to others who may be a target for unscrupulous individuals to make sure that we all protect each other during these difficult times.
Issues that are currently being addressed include food poverty, social isolation, financial poverty, ways to prevent fraud against the vulnerable and mental health.
From a housing perspective, we are especially looking at support to rough sleepers and those who find themselves homeless.
More information will follow on this shortly and will be available at www.chichester.gov.uk/cornonavirus .
Support for those who are struggling financially
The Government has announced a number of measures that are in place to support employees, benefit claimants and businesses, which are listed in the following link
The Government has also announced that it will be creating a hardship fund for those who are struggling financially. We are currently waiting for the guidance on this, which we hope will be out this week. As soon as we receive this information we will be communicating this with everyone. The council also has a number of schemes to help residents and businesses. You may find the following links helpful:
We are currently producing a list of support and where people can access it. This will be sent to members separately and will be placed on our website at www.chichester.gov.uk/coronavirus
Support for businesses
The Government has announced a package of support for businesses and we are waiting for further guidance on how this money will be distributed. We are currently pulling together information, including how businesses can access help. Those businesses that are eligible for business rate relief are being contacted.
We are currently producing more information on this. This will be sent to members separately and will be placed on our website at www.chichester.gov.uk/coronavirus .
Waste and Recycling Services
Our services are currently running as normal. If this changes, we will make people aware through our social media sites, website and the media.
We will also be issuing guidance on what people need to do with their waste if they are self-isolating. Personal waste (such as used tissues) and disposable cleaning cloths can be stored securely within disposable rubbish bags. These bags should be placed into another bag, tied securely and kept separate from other waste. This should be put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in your usual external household waste bin. Other household waste can be disposed of as normal.
All of our meetings during April have been cancelled, but we are constantly reviewing this situation and will keep you informed.
As a council we have agreed that formal meetings will only take place if absolutely necessary, in accordance with guidance from the Government. We have already cancelled a number of meetings and this will be kept under review.
The Government has announced their intention to relax rules that govern formal meetings and specifically to relax the requirement for members to be physically present during a meeting to be able to vote. However, as yet, the necessary legislation has not been passed. Once the rules have been relaxed we will consider holding virtual meetings and officers are exploring systems that the council could use to facilitate such meetings.
This is a fast-moving situation and we will do all we can to keep you informed. We will from now on add a time of issue to the top of these documents so you will be aware if the information has been superseded by further announcements.
How residents can help
We live in a generous compassionate district and people are keen to offer support in any way they can. We have seen a rise of groups on social media and in the community looking for ways to help.
- panic buying is unhelpful, please encourage people to buy only what they need.
- please do not stockpile items such as toilet roll, this prevents everyone being able to maintain basic hygiene.
- please support your local foodbank if you are able to.
- check in on elderly and vulnerable neighbours, many may not have access to the internet for latest updates.
- if you are unwell, follow Public Health England advice to stay at home to avoid spreading germs.
- please use our online services at www.chichester.gov.uk rather than making the journey to one of our offices. If you don’t have online access, please call 01243 534734 instead.
- we are working closely with West Sussex County Council who are co-ordinating volunteering across the district to effectively use the resources available and reach those in need. They are creating local hubs for groups through their libraries. Those who want to offer support should email Volunteering@westsussex.gov.uk Another option is to contact Voluntary Action Arun and Chichester www.vaac.org.uk who can provide advice and guidance, and signpost people to volunteers in their area.
- localised community efforts are appreciated, please encourage groups to look at the advice from Public Health England about staying at home (self-isolation) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance when offering support.
- if any vulnerable residents are concerned about people knocking on their doors, please remind them they do not have to open the door to anyone if they don’t want to.
- only take up offers of help from people you know, or from organisations that you are aware of and ask to check any ID.
At present the government advice has not changed since Monday 16 March. The latest information is on www.gov.uk/cornonavirus and this link can shared with anyone asking for more information.
We will be providing frequently asked questions on our website this week and will let you know as soon as this is ready.