Renfrewshire Council

Message from Chief Executive, Sandra Black - 7 May 2020

Today marked another milestone for us in our response to the Coronavirus outbreak as lockdown measures were reviewed for the second time by Scottish Government. Due to the continuing likelihood of a large number of us being infected with the disease if the lockdown is relaxed now, physical distancing restrictions will remain in place.

That is not to say that there has not been progress, and we continue to see signs of hope, not least in the declining numbers of people requiring intensive care treatment. This is testament to the sacrifices you have all made in staying at home and to the commitment and dedication of our NHS and health and social care colleagues. I am very proud of the contribution you are making.

For the first time we have an indication of what measures may be eased in the coming weeks, and the small steps that might be taken to help us reconnect with some of our friends and loved ones and spend a little more time outdoors, and how we might start to see NHS services and businesses begin to gradually reopen if physical distancing can be put in place.

You can read more about the Government's approach here https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making-further-information/ and take some time to provide your own feedback on the ideas being discussed on how lockdown may be lifted.

If there are any changes to Scottish Government advice over the weekend we will provide an update to staff on Monday.

I think we all recognise we are at a critical stage in our challenge to get the virus under control. I am also aware that the restrictions feel increasingly difficult and it is frustrating for those who feel isolated from colleagues and their normal way of working, but it is so important that we all continue to follow government advice to stay home where possible, and only leave the house for essential shopping and some daily exercise.

For those of us who are working at home, this means our new office arrangements are likely to be in place for some time to come and I am aware of how challenging this can be. We are reviewing our arrangements to make sure that you have the right kit and flexibility to work safely and stay connected to colleagues.

For our key workers, this means we must continue to provide the right PPE and make sure that physical distancing measures are in place to keep you safe and protected. It is also important that you are quickly tested should you or someone within your household become unwell with COVID-19 symptoms.

For everyone, it means ensuring you have the right support to look after your health and wellbeing.

I am very pleased that COVID testing has been extended further this week to include everyone over the age of 65 who has symptoms, and to all residents and staff within care homes where there is a confirmed case, whether they are symptomatic or not. Please make sure you tell us as soon as you become unwell or require a test. This will help us get the right support to you, protect your colleagues and our service users and help to get people back to work quickly. For more information about who can get tested and how to arrange a test visit - http://www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/article/10232/Expansion-of-testing-for-key-workers

An important part of the national recovery will be how we track the virus and stop its spread in the community and this week more information on how this will work has been shared by Government. The approach - test, trace isolate and support, has been used successfully in the past to halt the spread of viruses. This will involve testing people in the community who have symptoms of COVID-19, tracing those they have had contact with, asking them to self-isolate so they are less likely to pass it on if they are infected, and providing support to do this. Tracing can be done in different ways so that no one is excluded, using smartphone technology or contact tracers who will make sure people are alerted. We will update you on when the approach is launched nationally.

If you are a parent or carer in Renfrewshire you are likely to be in the midst of trying to keep children and young people occupied and indoors, and juggling work and family commitments. If you have any questions at all on home learning, returning to school or nursery after lockdown or national qualifications, then please take some time to get your questions to the Children's Services team through a short survey http://orlo.uk/SkB0n. The team are already responding to questions on what school life may look like in future and providing advice and reassurance.

And in the spirit of sharing your views, I would really appreciate your thoughts on how we continue to improve how we keep in touch with you during this crisis and beyond. A short survey on staff communications will be available until Thursday 21st May  and you can take part here - https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/eb88faccceaa4ad7b3d82b71c2d0e553  Please get involved and share your thoughts and ideas.

And finally, tomorrow's bank holiday marks 75 years since the end of war in Europe and I hope you have the chance to pause and reflect on resilience, spirit and community and the personal sacrifice that was made by so many all those years ago. Whether you have time off this weekend or are working through, I hope you can reconnect with the people who are closest to you and check in with family and friends. I am so grateful for your support and everything you continue to do to keep people in Renfrewshire safe and well.

Thank you and please stay safe.

Have a lovely bank holiday.

Sandra