10th December 2021
The government has announced that England will move to Plan B in the next few days in response to risks from the Omicron variant, and these changes will affect residents and workers in Sandwell.
Employers, for example, will have a responsibility to allow staff to work from home if they can.
The changes include:
Working from home wherever possible
Employers have been asked to make some changes in how they run their businesses in order to protect their employees against coronavirus.
From Monday,13 December, people who can work from home should do so. Government guidance states that employees should work from home unless being in the workplace is ‘essential’.
If an employee must enter the workplace, then regular lateral flow tests should be conducted. No one with any COVID-19 symptoms should go into work under any circumstances. They should stay at home, self-isolate and book a PCR test.
All employers should be strongly encouraging their staff to get fully vaccinated. Having a booster jab has just become even more important. New data indicates that a third vaccination offers good protection against the Omicron variant, while just two doses show significantly reduced effectiveness against it.
Employers also have a responsibility to the local community when the threat from coronavirus is rapidly increasing, including the risk of outbreaks in large workplaces which could affect other people.
Businesses should report two or more cases of Covid-19 in a workplace by emailing PHCovid19_Enquiries@sandwell.gov.uk – get advice from Public Health to prevent a major outbreak.
From Friday, 10 December, face coverings will be required by law in most indoor settings. In addition to shops and on public transport, face coverings will be mandatory in places of worship, theatres and cinemas.
Face coverings will not be required in hospitality settings or anywhere it is ‘not practical to wear them’, such as when exercising or singing.
Secondary schools will continue to use face coverings in communal areas.
From Wednesday,15 December, mass gatherings at certain venues and events such as:
• nightclubs; seated indoor venues with more than 500 people;
• unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people; and
• any venue with more than 10,000 people
will be required by law to check that all visitors aged 18 years or over:
• are fully vaccinated and have an NHS COVID Pass;
• have proof of a negative lateral flow test in the past 48 hours, or
• have an exemption.
Dr Lisa McNally, Sandwell’s director of public health, said: “The Omicron variant demonstrates that it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated. The virus will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so all of us can play our part now by adopting these easy and other effective actions – such as getting vaccinated – to protect yourself and others around you.”
Councillor Suzanne Hartwell, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for adults, social care and health, said: “The people and businesses of Sandwell have made tremendous efforts to follow COVID safety guidelines and protect the community, and I would urge them to adopt these changes today, so we can combat the threat from the Omicron variant.
“Employers shouldn’t ask or allow staff to come into their place of work just because it is ‘better’ or ‘preferable’. Their attendance needs to be absolutely essential, and employers should be able to justify why that is the case. If people are able to work from home, this will have a marked effect on COVID growth rates in Sandwell over the coming weeks.”