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Coronavirus: Tests for council workers ‘should have happened much sooner’

Coronavirus: Tests for council workers ‘should have happened much sooner’

Published by May Norman at 6:58am 4th May 2020.

'It should have happened sooner', claims union

  • The Government's announced that council workers with coronavirus symptoms can now be tested, 'should have happened much sooner', according to a Harrogate trade union.
  • Unison, representing staff at Harrogate Borough Council, has said the move's welcome news but unsung heroes supporting local communities should have received access to tests sooner.
  • It's also calling for the workforce to be provided with face masks.

A government announcement that council workers with coronavirus symptoms can now be tested “should have happened much sooner”, a Harrogate trade union has said.

The government has written to all local authorities in England to say council staff – and members of their household – are to be included in testing for essential workers.

This covers social and care workers – with care home staff able to get tested with or without symptoms.

It also includes workers delivering “essential public services”, such as benefit payments and those working with vulnerable children and adults, victims of domestic abuse, homeless people and rough sleepers.

David Houlgate, Branch Secretary at the union representing Harrogate Borough Council staff, said:

“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.”

Mr Houlgate said UNISON is also pushing for council workers in Harrogate to be provided with face masks.

“We recognise, however, that there are difficulties in obtaining these,” he said.

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Friday (1 May), wrote to councils thanking them for their efforts in the crisis and reminding them of their eligibility for testing.

He said:

“The unsung heroes in local government are supporting communities across the country during the pandemic, from helping vulnerable people to ensuring our bins are collected.

“We’ve expanded the national testing programme to prioritise essential workers, such as council staff who are keeping the country going.”

Mr Jenrick has also said the government is likely to meet or “come close” to its target of 100,000 daily UK coronavirus tests.

The test can be booked through a new online system.

Council workers can book if they are experiencing symptoms – a high temperature or new continuous cough – at drive-through testing centres.

They can also ask for a home testing kit if they cannot travel.

Test results from the drive-through sites will be sent out by text within 48 hours and within 72 hours of collection of the home delivery tests.

For more information visit the government website.