The coning of Consett

Many of us, myself included, were taken by surprise this morning by an array of cones preventing parking in parking bays and loading bays across the town.

Following clarification from County Hall the changes across the county and the reasons for them can be seen here.

I remain concerned that changes in some streets will have a seriously adverse effect on traders. I will therefore be looking to ensure that the measures will be reviewed as councillors have been assured:

“In planning for the return of people to our town centres we have had to assume almost a worst case scenario that large volumes of people would return and therefore our actions, implemented this morning, provided as much additional space as possible, but on a temporary basis.  In the following days, as the demand from the public becomes more established, we will adjust the measures and try to provide a balance between the needs of pedestrians with parking and loading spaces.”

Warning from Track and Trace

If someone contacts you claiming to be from the NHS track and trace, please remember the following.

Contact tracers will never:

  • ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to them (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
  • ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product or any kind
  • ask for any details about your bank account
  • ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
  • ask you for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone
  • disclose any of your personal or medical information to your contacts
  • provide medical advice on the treatment of any potential coronavirus symptoms
  • ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else
  • ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS

In respect of the last point, the key websites are:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works

or, if you are contacted,

https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk/

Coronavirus Community support fund opening today, May 22nd

The National Lottery Community Fund are delighted to confirm that the Government’s new Coronavirus Community Support Fund will open for applications at 10am on Friday 22nd May. This new funding stream makes available £200m in Government funding that will be aimed primarily at small to medium organisations in England. The Fund has two key objectives: to increase community support to vulnerable people affected by the COVID-19 crisis, through the work of civil society organisations and to reduce temporary closures of essential charities and social enterprises. Read the press release here

Durham’s Household Waste Recycling Centres to re-open on May 18th.

All 12 of the main Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) in County Durham will reopen on May 18th. The council will also resume its bulky waste goods collections from this day.

Please be considerate. There may be more demand than can easily be catered for so initially at lease please only take waste to HWRCs if it cannot be stored safely at home and no alternative disposal options are available.

Sites are expected to be extremely busy once the HWRCs reopen. There may be traffic management schemes where necessary. To ensure social distancing, people will be asked to keep two metres apart at all times and a limited number of cars will be allowed on site at a time. We’re all going to have to be patient!

No lifting assistance will be available from staff on site so you may want to take a passenger from the household if required. We will also be asked to wash our hands before and after our visit.

As before, waste permits will be needed for vehicles other than cars. These can be applied for on the council’s website.

Something you can do to help stem the Covid tide

You may be doing this already. If so polish your halo and read no further, but less than 5% of the population are doing this so a lot of readers could usefully latch onto it.

There’s a health tracker which you can put on your mobile phone just to report in once a day to say whether you have had a test for Covid, and whether you’re still feeling fit and well. Using it Kings College London and the NHS can help pinpoint how the virus is spreading, helping to predict hotspots and other research.

Its very easy to join in. Just visit https://covid.joinzoe.com/ and swell the 2.7 million.

Waitrose and M&S Food are not the answer for Free School Meal vouchers

Only in Westminster could they dream up a system which offers parents of children on free school meals (on the occasions when there head teachers can acces them) vouchers for Waitros and M&S Food.

For people who live in remoter parts of North West Durham the local Co-op foodstore would be a lot more use, or Lidl if you live in Crook, but check out the supply website and you’ll find the list:

What supermarkets are available?

  • Morrisons
  • Tesco
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Asda
  • Waitrose
  • M&S food
  • Aldi

Many communities across the country, whether it’s Tow Law in the Durham Dales or Portree on the Isle of Skye, rely on Co-op foodstores for their main supply.

In Crook, they lost their old Co-op foodstore and it was replaced by – yes, you’ve guessed it, Lidl. No advance there then for our Free School Meal kids.

The people of North West Durham chose a different political party last year. Now is a chance for that party to recognise this specific need on behalf of the people of Nort West Durham.

Household Waste and Recycling Collections during Covid-19 Crisis

Services are holding up well, including collections over the Easter period, a very busy time for the council. Extra vehicles and crew (including from garden waste and bulky goods rounds) as well as volunteers from highways, leisure, clean and green and neighbourhood protection are being used to help meet social distancing requirements. Staff have really appreciated the many compliments and thanks they have received from the public.

Unfortunately there is no capacity to collect additional refuse so please don’t leave it out. The exception to this is dry recycling. If placed in a clear plastic bag, so loaders can see what is inside, then in accordance with existing policy this can be taken, when left to the side of the recycling bin.

Ways in which residents can assist are as follows:

  • For collection day in tight streets, please ensure that cars are parked to allow access by the collection vehicles.
  • Ensure bin is presented for 7am (normal bin collections times may have changed as we comply with social distancing).
  • Please don’t overfill the bins, materials that fall out pose hazards to collectors, delay their progress and can end up littering which then subsequently requires resource to deal with.
  • Please recycle as much as possible, (squashing down the contents) and avoid contamination.
  • If you or your family are unfortunate enough to have coronavirus symptoms then please separately double bag materials such as tissues and wipes, and leave for 3 days before putting in the refuse bin.

Garden Waste Collection – Move to Saturday and Monday Collections

The current service to over 55,000 customers had to be postponed for a month, to allow the resource to be deployed in support of the main refuse and recycling rounds which operate Tuesday to Friday. This has allowed 10 vehicles and 30 crew assist the main refuse and recycling crews, and provides capability to ensure social distancing.

Whilst the challenges to delivering the core refuse and recycling services haven’t gone away, the council does recognise that the garden waste collection service is separately paid for and highly valued by residents. People are also now spending more time in their gardens if they have one. The council has therefore looked at times when it has spare capacity – namely Saturday and Monday where it will provide a garden waste collection. We have worked to plans in place where so we can deliver the service on these days over the next four months.

All customers are being advised of the new arrangements, which have been kept straightforward as possible so that what are normally Tuesday and Wednesday collections are collected on a Saturday. What are normally Thursday and Friday collections will be collected on a Monday. The council is allowing provision for customers to request a refund, however as the service is still being provided (albeit on different days) it very much hopes that most will stay with it.

Under the revised dates, garden waste collections will begin for some customers on Saturday 2 May with others collected on Monday 4 May, Saturday 9 May or Monday 11 May, dependent on their collection calendar. In addition to bespoke e-mails and letters, over the next few days information on the revised dates will be uploaded on the mydurham website.

It is proposed to review the position in four months’ time. The peak of the growing season will have passed, and hopefully the peak of the pandemic too. This will allow consideration to remaining collection arrangements for the rest of the season.

Household Waste Recycling Centres

Nationally the vast majority of household tips are closed. This is not surprising as delivery and depositing of household waste is not included in the legally permitted reasons for leaving home which are restricted to shopping for basic necessities, medical need, travelling to work (where it can’t be done at home) or daily exercise.

The council is continuing to monitor the national guidance and changes to regulations and at some stage anticipates that they will re-open.

In the meantime, and whilst the facilities are closed, the council is encouraging residents not to embark on large DIY projects, that will generate waste or if this is unavoidable to have in place arrangements for safe storage.

Government advice on Food and Food Handling for Covid-19 crisis

What you need to know about coronavirus and food

  • It is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus (COVID-19) from food.
  • Cooking thoroughly will kill the virus.
  • COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. It is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging.
  • Everyone should wash their hands regularly with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, to reduce the risk of illness.
  • It is especially important to wash hands before handling food or eating.

Food hygiene when shopping

The risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) cross-contamination to food and food packaging is very low. Food businesses must ensure that they have the correct food hygiene and food safety processes in place and that these are being followed to protect their customers.

Staff handling food in shops are required to maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and wear suitable, clean clothing. This includes regular hand washing to maintain good hygiene.

Food businesses are required to have a system for managing food safety in place, but this does not necessarily require staff to wear gloves when serving or handling food.

When you are buying loose foods such as fruit, vegetables, or bread in a bakery, try and only touch what you are going to buy.

Imported food products

The risk of imported food and packaging from affected countries being contaminated with coronavirus is very unlikely. This is because the law requires the exporter to follow the right controls during the packing and shipping process to ensure good hygiene is met.

Reusable cups

Customers may previously have used reusable cups or containers when shopping or buying drinks at cafes and other retailers. It is up to the individual business to decide whether they allow the use of reusable cups or containers during this period.

If reusable cups or containers are used, they should be washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water, or in a dishwasher, if suitable.

Social distancing when shopping

You should maintain a 2 metre distance between yourself and others, and only buy what you need. This is to avoid crowding and to create adequate spacing between other shoppers and staff.

Shops and supermarkets may take their own action to avoid crowding. This can include monitoring the number of customers within the store and limiting access to avoid congestion. They may also implement queue management systems to limit crowds gathering at entrances and to maintain the 2 metre distance.

Further information on social distancing can be found on GOV.UK.

Food hygiene at home

Although it is very unlikely that coronavirus is transmitted through food, cooking thoroughly will kill the virus.

If you have symptoms associated with coronavirus, or have tested positive for COVID-19, you can minimise direct hand contact with food by using tongs and utensils.

It is important that anyone handling and preparing food for others follows the Food Standard Agency’s guidance on food safety and hygiene.

You should always use a food-safe disinfectant when cleaning surfaces and follow the instructions on the pack. If there is a shortage of suitable cleaning products, you can use hot, soapy water to clean these surfaces.

Food packaging

If you have been shopping, there should be no need to sanitise the outer packaging of food. This is because food businesses are required to have a system for managing food safety in place, which should include keeping packaging clean. You should still follow good hygiene practice by washing your hands after handling any outer packaging. If you have reason to believe the packaging has been contaminated, you should follow the recommended cleaning guidance.

Loose food

It is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food. You should follow good hygiene and preparation practices when handling and eating raw fruit, leafy salads and vegetables. This includes washing fresh produce to help to remove any contamination on the surface. Peeling the outer layers or skins of certain fruits and vegetables can also help to remove surface contamination. We would remind you not to wash raw chicken or other meat as this can lead to cross-contamination in your kitchen.

It is important to wash your hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds before and after you prepare food.

Food storage and reuse at home

‘Best before’ and ‘use-by’ dates should be used to make sure your food is safe and that you avoid food waste by not throwing away edible food unnecessarily. You should always follow the manufacturer’s instruction on the packaging.

  • ‘Best before’ is about quality: food is still safe to be eaten after this date but may no longer be at its best.
  • ‘Use-by’ is about safety: food should not be eaten, cooked or frozen after this date, as it could be unsafe – even if it has been stored correctly and looks and smells fine.

If your food is safe to freeze, it can be frozen right up to and including the ‘use-by’ date. Freezing acts as a ‘pause button’ and stops bacterial growth. You can freeze most food items, including raw and cooked meats, fruit and eggs.

When food defrosts, its core temperature rises. This provides the ideal conditions for bacteria to grow if left at room temperature. It is best to defrost food slowly and safely in the fridge. Food should be eaten within 24 hours once defrosted.

Takeaway food

Orders should not be made in person on the premises. You should order online or by telephone in advance.

If you are collecting your food in person from a takeaway or restaurant which offers a pick-up service, you should adhere to the social distancing rules set out by the food business. This may include having staggered collection times and using a queue management system to maintain the 2 metre separation.

It is safe to have takeaway food delivered if the business you order from follows the Government’s safety guidance.

Staff preparing your food should regularly wash their hands and maintain good hygiene practices in food preparation and handling areas.

Government advice on social distancing applies to those delivering food. You should minimise the chance of coronavirus spreading by maintaining a distance of 2 metres when the food is delivered.