Employee who blew whistle on COVID safety was unfairly dismissed

A pet food retailer unfairly dismissed an employee after she raised concerns about health and safety and blew the whistle on managers and colleagues flouting COVID-19 rules.

An East London employment tribunal found that Mrs. Best, who worked at raw pet food company Embark on Raw in Billericay, Essex, made protected disclosures when she raised alarm over colleagues not wearing face coverings – although these were optional at the time – and ignoring social distancing guidelines.

Best also complained about not having access to hot water to wash her hands while in her main place of work, despite having to handle raw meat, and expressed concern about a colleague who continued to work while someone in his household appeared to have COVID-19 symptoms – however she later found out the individual did not have the virus.

She also made a claim for harassment related to her age and sex, alleging that the company owner suggested she might be menopausal.

The tribunal was told that Best “expressed extreme anxiety and stress” after witnessing a colleague coughing in the shop while not wearing a mask.

She raised her concerns about mask-wearing on a WhatsApp group which included several of her colleagues. She ended her message by asking managers to speak to staff about what she perceived to be a “worrying situation”.

The organisation dismissed her health and safety concerns and told her “we are doing the best that we can and we are not breaking any rules. Masks are not required but we do it as an extra measure”.

She was told to “relax” and “stop digging [sic] the youngsters”.

The tribunal’s judgment says: “The claimant’s reasonable belief in the endangerment to health and safety is evidenced by the fact that she was present in the shop and observed and noted the actions of her colleagues.

“There is no documented investigation of the claimant’s allegations; there is no evidence from the respondent that any steps were taken to interview the other five employees or speak to them individually or collectively to find out if the claimant’s anxieties were in fact justified. On the contrary the respondent entirely believed the co-workers’ complaints that they were the ones being treated badly by Mrs. Best.”

In April 2020 a colleague made a complaint about Best, which started that she would “boss” other staff around and treated colleagues “as kids” about the alleged failures to wear masks and socially distance. The complainant said that she and other colleagues were considering leaving the company because of Best.

The following day, one of the company owners phoned Best and told her that she had “created a bit of a divide in the business” and accused her of having “ranted off” about COVID measures. She was worried that Best would expose her business as the source of any illness she might contract.

The claimant was given a verbal warning, but this was not formally logged despite the warning being given as part of the reason for her dismissal a few weeks later.

The judgment says: “Without further investigation of the employee complaints and/or previous actions of the other employees the respondent imposed detriment and eventually dismissed the claimant as a direct result of her protected disclosures and the consequences of those complaints in terms of working relationships.

“No independent intervention such as mediation was attempted. The co-workers were believed and the claimant was identified as the source of all the relevant ‘alienation’ at work.”

One director told the tribunal that after hearing about the complaint against Best, he told his wife that “it’s time to let her go now…they can’t work with her and I can’t work with her, we have to let her go”. He said that he was faced with a situation where either Best was dismissed or he would lose all or a substantial number of his other employees, which would threaten the future of the business.

The tribunal found that the meeting in which Best was dismissed did not comply with the Acas code on disciplinary and grievance procedures as she had been given no notice of the disciplinary allegations against her and therefore no opportunity to prepare a defence or explanation for her actions.

“We find that the principal reason for the claimant’s dismissal on 11 May 2020 was that she made protected disclosures,” the judgment says.

“One of the consequences of those disclosures was the complaint or complaints by her colleagues. The respondent accepted those complaints without intervention, with no proper investigation and sought to preserve its residual workforce by taking the step of dismissing the claimant. The nexus between the making of the disclosures and the dismissal is clearly established.”

Although Best had not been employed at the company for the two-year qualifying period for protection against unfair dismissal, the tribunal found that her claim could succeed because the company had not followed Acas guidance.

A compensation order has not yet been made, but the tribunal found Best would be entitled to a 20% uplift because of the firm’s failure to follow correct disciplinary procedures. Her claims for harassment and victimisation also succeeded.

 

This is valid as of 25th January 2022.

 

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Long COVID continues to affect more than a million people

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), an estimated 1.3 million people (2%) in private households in the UK reported having long COVID in the four weeks to 6 December 2021.

Of people with self-reported long COVID, 21% (270,000 people) first had (or suspected they had) coronavirus (COVID-19) less than 12 weeks previously.

Those who first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 at least 12 weeks previously made up 70% (892,000 people), and 40% (506,000 people) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 at least one year previously.

Those in teaching and education also showed greater prevalence of self-reported long COVID. This represents the biggest month-on-month increase out of all employment sectors.

Of the proportion of people with self-reported long COVID whose symptoms adversely affected their day-to-day activities, 20% reported their ability to undertake day-to-day activities had been “limited a lot”.

Fatigue continued to be the most commonly reported symptom, applying to 51% of those with self-reported long COVID. This was followed by 37% with loss of smell, 36% with shortness of breath and 28% who had difficulty in concentrating. The proportions amount to more than 100% because some people have experienced more than one symptom.

As a proportion of the UK population, prevalence of self-reported long COVID was greatest in people aged 35 to 69 years, females, people living in more deprived areas, those working in health care and social care, and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability.

 

This is valid as of 11th January 2022.

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Workplaces told to plan for absences of up to 25%

Ministers have been tasked with developing “robust contingency plans” for workplace absences, as the government warned rising cases could see up to a quarter of staff off work.

According to BBC News, public sector leaders have been asked to prepare for “worst case scenarios” of 10%, 20% and 25% absence rates, the Cabinet Office said.

The UK saw record numbers of daily cases over the festive period. Transport, the NHS and schools have already seen the effect of absences.

Rising case numbers have led to large numbers self isolating and being unable to go to work. This has particularly affected industries where staff are unable to work from home.

Cabinet Office Minister Steve Barclay is chairing regular meetings with ministers to assess how the spread of the Omicron variant is affecting workforces and supply chains, the Cabinet Office said.

The prime minister had asked ministers working with their respective sectors to test preparations and contingency plans to limit disruption, it explained.

Mr. Barclay said the highly transmissible Omicron variant meant businesses and public services “will face disruption in the coming weeks, particularly from higher than normal staff absence”.

However, his department said that, so far, disruption caused by Omicron has been controlled in “most parts of the public sector.”

Self-isolation rules

People who test positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for at least seven days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Two negative lateral flow results, 24 hours apart, are required to end self isolation – the first no earlier than day six.

In Scotland, positive cases must isolate for the full 10 days.

Unvaccinated contacts of positive cases must also isolate for 10 days in all parts of the UK.

Some have called for a US-style self-isolation system to be introduced, where people only have to quarantine for five days, but the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that doing so would be counterproductive and could actually worsen staff shortages if it led to more people being infected.

Explaining its reasoning in a blog post, it said the two systems were not like for like. In the UK, the self-isolation “clock” begins when the person experiences symptoms or receives a positive test – whichever is first. But in the US, self isolation begins only after a positive test – which may be some days after symptoms first appear.

On day six, the UKHSA says its modelling suggests 10-30% of people will still be infectious, depending on how quickly they get their test result after developing symptoms.

It says ending self isolation after seven days with two negative lateral flow tests gives a similar level of protection to self-isolating for 10 days, when 5% of people will still be infectious.

The situation will be kept under review, the UKHSA says, but it believes current rules are the “optimal approach at present”.

 

This is valid as of 5th January 2022.

Ministers have been tasked with developing “robust contingency plans” for workplace absences, as the government warned rising cases could see up to a quarter of staff off work.
According to BBC News, public sector leaders have been asked to prepare for “worst case scenarios” of 10%, 20% and 25% absence rates, the Cabinet Office said. The UK saw record numbers of daily cases over the festive period. Transport, the NHS and schools have already seen the effect of absences. Rising case numbers have led to large numbers self isolating and being unable to go to work. This has particularly affected industries where staff are unable to work from home. Cabinet Office Minister Steve Barclay is chairing regular meetings with ministers to assess how the spread of the Omicron variant is affecting workforces and supply chains, the Cabinet Office said. The prime minister had asked ministers working with their respective sectors to test preparations and contingency plans to limit disruption, it explained. Mr. Barclay said the highly transmissible Omicron variant meant businesses and public services “will face disruption in the coming weeks, particularly from higher than normal staff absence”. However, his department said that, so far, disruption caused by Omicron has been controlled in “most parts of the public sector.”
Self-isolation rules
People who test positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for at least seven days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Two negative lateral flow results, 24 hours apart, are required to end self isolation - the first no earlier than day six. In Scotland, positive cases must isolate for the full 10 days. Unvaccinated contacts of positive cases must also isolate for 10 days in all parts of the UK. Some have called for a US-style self-isolation system to be introduced, where people only have to quarantine for five days, but the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that doing so would be counterproductive and could actually worsen staff shortages if it led to more people being infected. Explaining its reasoning in a blog post, it said the two systems were not like for like. In the UK, the self-isolation “clock” begins when the person experiences symptoms or receives a positive test - whichever is first. But in the US, self isolation begins only after a positive test - which may be some days after symptoms first appear. On day six, the UKHSA says its modelling suggests 10-30% of people will still be infectious, depending on how quickly they get their test result after developing symptoms. It says ending self isolation after seven days with two negative lateral flow tests gives a similar level of protection to self-isolating for 10 days, when 5% of people will still be infectious. The situation will be kept under review, the UKHSA says, but it believes current rules are the “optimal approach at present”.   This is valid as of 5th January 2022.

PM announces Plan B restrictions in England

Last week, in response to concern over the Omicron variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that England is now implementing Plan B restrictions in order to slow the spread of the virus and buy more time to administer boosters.

This means:

 • Work from home: from Monday 13 December, the reintroduction of work from home guidance – people are asked to work at home where they can and only go into a workplace if they must

 • Face masks: from Friday 10 December, further extension of the legal requirement to wear a face mask to most public indoor venues, including theatres and cinemas. There will be exemptions where it is not practical, such as when eating, drinking, exercising or singing. They are already mandatory in shops and on public transport.

 • NHS Covid Pass: from Wednesday 15 December, the NHS Covid Pass will be mandatory for entry into nightclubs, and venues where large crowds gather including unseated 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.

The NHS Covid Pass can be obtained with two vaccine doses but this is to be kept under review as the boosters are rolled out. A negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient. From the time of the announcement (Wednesday 8 December), businesses are given a week’s notice to help keep these events and venues open at full capacity.

 

This is valid as of 13th December 2021.

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Government preparedness for the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons for government on risk

In July 2020, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) made its first report on the UK Government’s broad, initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying there had been an “astonishing” failure to plan appropriately especially in relation to the national economy, where it was revealed in evidence to the Committee that there had really been “no specific plan” at all.

The Committee has since reported on Government failures in balancing risk across many aspects of its response to the pandemic, and lack of planning and preparedness despite an influenza pandemic having been identified as the UK’s top non-malicious risk on government’s National Risk Register since 2008.

This follow up inquiry is based on the NAO’s recent findings that Government was not fully prepared for the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on society, the economy and essential public services, and did not act upon some warnings from the simulations carried out prior to COVID-19, which highlighted issues around planning, coordination and capability that apply to pandemics more broadly.

For example, PAC says that the Government lacked detailed plans on shielding, employment support schemes and managing the disruption to schooling. Departments’ pandemic plans and business continuity plans set out some, but not all, of the responses required to maintain operations during the pandemic.

Preparations for EU exit enhanced the crisis capabilities and risk planning of some departments but meant that government paused work on other emergency preparations, limiting its ability to focus on other risk and contingency planning at the same time.

During this inquiry, the Committee will question senior officials at DHSC and the Cabinet Office. The inquiry is currently accepting evidence. The Committee is inviting views, and welcome submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the call for evidence. Evidence may be submitted until 5 January 2022.

 

This is valid as of 6th December 2021.

In July 2020, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) made its first report on the UK Government’s broad, initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying there had been an “astonishing” failure to plan appropriately especially in relation to the national economy, where it was revealed in evidence to the Committee that there had really been “no specific plan” at all.
The Committee has since reported on Government failures in balancing risk across many aspects of its response to the pandemic, and lack of planning and preparedness despite an influenza pandemic having been identified as the UK’s top non-malicious risk on government’s National Risk Register since 2008. This follow up inquiry is based on the NAO’s recent findings that Government was not fully prepared for the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on society, the economy and essential public services, and did not act upon some warnings from the simulations carried out prior to COVID-19, which highlighted issues around planning, coordination and capability that apply to pandemics more broadly. For example, PAC says that the Government lacked detailed plans on shielding, employment support schemes and managing the disruption to schooling. Departments’ pandemic plans and business continuity plans set out some, but not all, of the responses required to maintain operations during the pandemic. Preparations for EU exit enhanced the crisis capabilities and risk planning of some departments but meant that government paused work on other emergency preparations, limiting its ability to focus on other risk and contingency planning at the same time. During this inquiry, the Committee will question senior officials at DHSC and the Cabinet Office. The inquiry is currently accepting evidence. The Committee is inviting views, and welcome submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the call for evidence. Evidence may be submitted until 5 January 2022.   This is valid as of 6th December 2021.

Air quality concerns hindering return to five-day office week

Businesses whose staff are resistant to resuming full-time office working should address the issue of workplace air quality.

A survey of UK office workers claims that 80% would feel more positive about a return to a five-day office week if action was taken to measure and improve the quality of air in their workplace.

The survey, The Air That We Breathe, canvassed the views of 200 people aged between 25 and 55 who work in offices across a variety of UK business sectors. It was conducted by communications consultancy JPES Partners whose Head of Property, Duncan Lamb, comments: “The survey responses made it clear just how much the pandemic has focused people’s thinking on the issue, with 86% of respondents saying that the issue of air quality in the workplace is now more important to them.

“Accordingly, it’s now a factor which is influencing people’s willingness to return to the office environment and needs to be addressed by all businesses – and not just those which are office-based.”

Currently, there is little evidence that employers are actively engaging with issue: less than a third of those surveyed reported that their employer had taken measures to improve the air quality of their workplace during the past year.

The research’s author, Stephen Collins, reports: “Examples of basic measures which had been taken included employers who have simply put more space between workstations with some even moving to larger buildings to make this strategy possible.

“Of the more positive comments, one respondent noted that their employer had added filters to the air conditioning units while another reported that air quality levels were now tested daily.”

The presence of air quality monitors would go some way to reassuring workers: 88% of those surveyed said that air quality measurement at workplaces should become mandatory.

The effects of poor air quality has been scientifically proven to be linked to life-reducing illnesses and lowered cognitive function. Air quality is measured with an Air Quality Index which shows changes in the amount of pollution in the air and particularly the presence of airborne particulate matter which is measured on the PM scale.

It is also becoming an issue for property landlords and developers. Whereas occupier attitudes to their environment previously focused predominantly on temperature and light levels, the quality of air in a workplace or, indeed, any publicly shared enclosed space is fast becoming a matter for scrutiny.

Duncan Lamb comments: “It’s a substantial challenge for the owners of existing buildings that will need to be adapted if they are to meet higher expectations around air quality. For new developments, the issue is perhaps more straightforward but for all types of asset there is likely to be an additional layer of cost as more intensive and sophisticated systems have to be put in place.

“However, on the upside, it’s clear that engaging with the issue can contribute positively to the marketability of a workplace and also its long-term asset value.”

 

This is valid as of 16th November 2021.

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COVID-19: Vaccines to be compulsory for frontline NHS staff in England

Frontline NHS staff in England will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID, the health secretary announced last week.

A deadline is expected to be set for 1 April next year to give unvaccinated staff time to get both doses, Sajid Javid told the Commons.

Between 80,000 and 100,000 NHS workers in England were unvaccinated, said Chris Hopson, head of NHS Providers.

Last Thursday was the deadline for care home workers in England to get vaccinated.

The government’s decision follows a consultation which began in September and considered whether both the COVID and flu jabs should be compulsory for frontline NHS and care workers.

Mr. Javid said the flu vaccine would not be made mandatory.

There will be exemptions for the COVID vaccine requirement for medical reasons, and for those who do not have face-to-face contact with patients in their work, he added.

In a statement to MPs, Mr. Javid said responses to the consultation showed support for vaccination to become a condition and concerns that some people might choose to leave their jobs. But, having considered the responses, as well as advice from his officials and NHS leaders, he concluded that all those working in the NHS and social care would have to be vaccinated, he said.

“We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and, of course, protect the NHS itself.”

He said the requirement would be enforced from April, with parliamentary approval.

No unvaccinated worker should be “scapegoated”, said Mr. Javid, and should instead be supported to make “a positive choice”.

Each of the four UK nations makes its own decisions on the issue. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not made any proposals to make COVID jabs compulsory for NHS workers or care home staff.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers which represents England’s NHS trusts, said: “We understand why people are vaccine-hesitant. We need to win the argument with them rather than beat them around the head.”

The possibility of losing staff was a “real problem” as the NHS runs on fine margins and already relies on staff to work extra shifts, he added.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said she feared the move might knock staff morale further and prompt workers to leave – or lose their job.

The government should consider alternatives like daily testing – not risk making the same mistake made with mandatory jabs in social care which had led to an “unprecedented staffing crisis”, she added.

From last Thursday (11 November), care homes are required to refuse entry to workers who have not been fully vaccinated, unless they have a medical exemption or there is an emergency.

 

This is valid as of 15th November 2021.

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Study reveals inadequate ventilation in primary classrooms

Some 40% of primary school classrooms do not have an adequate ventilation rate to combat the spread of COVID-19, according to a recent study.

Research by Coventry University concluded that the area and volume of classrooms needs to be increased for students to remain at an “acceptable distance” from one another, while it also recommended user-friendly and safe windows designed at two different levels to allow both teachers and pupils to open and close them.

The research found problems with ventilation in classrooms were largely due teachers and pupils failing to open doors and windows regularly enough. It said this was linked to the different thresholds for temperature between adults and children – with adults essentially feeling colder than children.

Coventry University PhD student Sepideh Korsavi, under the supervision of Dr. Azadeh Montazami, observed occupant-related factors of 805 children in 32 naturally ventilated classrooms in UK primary schools during cold and warm seasons for the study.

 Inadequate indoor air quality

The results suggest that a classroom with high potential for natural ventilation does not necessarily provide adequate indoor air quality as that relies on teachers and pupils opening windows and doors.

The study also shows that around 15% of children are overheated during cold seasons as well as warm seasons and recommends increasing ventilation rates to help maintain air quality and a comfortable room temperature.

Dr. Azadeh Montazami, an indoor environmental quality expert at Coventry University and supervisor of the research project, said: “Teachers are mainly in charge of controlling the environment in classrooms and they open windows according to their own thermal threshold, which is higher than children’s. As most UK school classrooms are naturally ventilated, teachers should be informed about these differences and the consequence of their behaviour and be encouraged to open windows to reduce the risk of spreading COVID.”

Dr. Sepideh Korsavi, who is now a postdoctoral researcher on sustainable buildings at the University of Plymouth, said: “The area and volume of the classrooms need to be increased to occupy students with an acceptable distance. User-friendly and safe windows that are designed at two different levels for the height of both teachers and children can facilitate their window operations.

“Well-designed naturally ventilated schools that are operated effectively by school occupants can increase ventilation rates and reduce the risk of spreading COVID.”

Professor Dejan Mumovi of University College London also contributed to the study.

 

This is valid as of 9th November 2021.

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ONS: Eight in ten adults think social distancing is important – but four in ten actually do it

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), fewer adults are practising COVID-19 preventative measures and more people are travelling to work, but uncertainty about life returning to normal has increased.

Between 6 and 17 October 2021, 39% of adults said they had always or often maintained social distancing when meeting with people outside their household. This compares with 84% who believed it was important or very important in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

The percentage of adults always or often maintaining social distancing has fallen from 63% in mid-July, before limits on the numbers of people who could meet indoors were lifted in England. Restrictions on meeting indoors in Wales and Scotland were lifted in early August.

Around 90% of adults said they were always or often maintaining social distancing in January and February 2021, when lockdown restrictions were in place across Great Britain.

Hands, face, space

In the two weeks ending 17 October 2021, 82% of adults said they had worn a face covering in the past seven days, which is down from 97% in mid-June.

Most people continue to believe that regular hand washing, use of face coverings and social distancing (‘hands, face, space’) are important or very important in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Around the same percentage of adults in Great Britain surveyed between 6 and 17 October 2021 said they had worn a face covering as thought it was important or very important to slow the spread of COVID-19 (82% compared with 84%).

However, people were more likely to say that hand washing and social distancing were important or very important than they were to practise the measures themselves.

A total of 91% considered hand washing to be important or very important, while 82% said they washed their hands regularly when returning home.

For social distancing, 84% of adults said it was important or very important in slowing the spread, but just 39% said they had always or often maintained it when meeting with others.

Men were less likely than women to consider measures such as hand washing, face coverings, social distancing and ventilation to be important or very important in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Between 6 and 17 October 2021, 94% of women considered hand washing to be important in slowing the spread, compared with 88% of men. On face coverings, 87% of women and 81% of men considered wearing them to be important.

Meanwhile, people aged 16 to 29 years were less likely than those aged 70 years and over to view social distancing as important or very important (75% compared with 90%).

On all four measures – hand washing, face coverings, social distancing and ventilation – young people saw them as less important than older age groups.

Travelling to work

Between 6 and 17 October 2021, 54% of working adults in Great Britain went to a place of work without doing any work from home.

This is the highest percentage for a year and the same as between 7 and 11 October 2020.

Just over 1 in 7 working adults (15%) worked only from home between 6 and 17 October 2021, down from 37% in mid-February 2021 and the lowest percentage since the current survey began in May 2020.

A further 16% both worked from home and travelled to work, similar to levels recorded in June 2021.

 

This is valid as of 3rd November 2021.

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Scientists advise office CO2 monitoring to help manage COVID-19 risk

As more UK workers and students return to offices and schools, a new paper published in the Indoor and Built Environment journal details a new model that has been developed to predict the risk of airborne COVID-19 infection in such environments.

The model – developed by researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Cambridge and University of Leeds, and jointly funded by the PROTECT COVID-19 National Core Study and UK Research and Innovation – uses monitored CO2 and occupancy data to predict how many workers are likely to be infected by an asymptomatic but infectious colleague.

High indoor CO2 levels are related to lower ventilation rates and high occupancy, so monitoring them can provide an important red flag to building managers to identify areas of inadequate ventilation. This can help assess the risk of airborne transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Achievable interventions can then be made, for instance, to improve ventilation or change worker attendance patterns to reduce occupancy.

While applications of the infection model so far have demonstrated that most workers in well ventilated open plan offices are unlikely to infect each other via airborne particles, the risk becomes greater if the space is poorly ventilated or if the workers are involved in activities which require more speaking. For instance, the model predicts each infected person could infect two to four others in an adequately ventilated but noisy call centre. Risks are also likely to increase if the infected individual is a ‘super spreader’.

Dr Henry Burridge, Senior Lecturer in Fluid Mechanics at Imperial College London and lead author of the paper, said: “In shared spaces such as offices and classrooms, exposure to infectious airborne matter builds up over time, during which room occupancy may vary. By using carbon dioxide levels as a proxy for exhaled breath, our new model can assess the variable exposure risk as people come and go.

“Our work emphasises the importance of good ventilation in workplaces and in schools. The model demonstrates that by managing the ventilation and occupancy levels of shared spaces we can manage the risk of airborne infection by a virus such as that which causes COVID-19.”

Professor Andrew Curran, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Health and Safety Executive and lead for the PROTECT study, added: “This important research demonstrates that, while the airborne transmission route can be a significant contributor to COVID-19 infection risk in places such as offices and schools, there are achievable steps that can be taken to reduce this risk and help facilitate a safe return. Ensuring adequate ventilation is a key element, and the appropriate use of tools such as CO2 monitoring can give building managers a much better understanding of their own ventilation systems and how they are performing for each activity undertaken in the space.

“However, the airborne route is just one of three known routes of transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Close-range person-to-person and surface transmission risks must also be assessed, and relevant measures applied to control all routes of exposure for all activities where risk is identified. For most businesses, a COVID-19 control strategy will involve a blended combination of measures identified through a risk assessment – there is no silver bullet.”

Professor Charlotte Deane, UKRI Director for the COVID-19 Response and Deputy Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said: “A key challenge throughout the pandemic has been to understand how this novel virus is transmitted and to develop measures which could be implemented to curb the spread of infection. This study highlights that research and innovation supported by UKRI and the National Core Studies programme is continuing to evolve our understanding of the virus and helping us to develop knowledge which will be key to the global post-pandemic recovery.”

The full paper can be found here.

 

This is valid as of 25th October 2021.

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Hospital breached safety law over staff PPE

A hospital where a radiographer died after contracting COVID failed to fit some staff properly for face masks, an investigation has found.

Simon Guest, who worked at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria, died in April 2020.

BBC News reported that a HSE investigation prompted by his death found University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust had breached health and safety law. The trust has declined to comment.

An HSE spokesman said the breach concerned the personal protective equipment (PPE) issued to staff by the trust.

“Our inspectors identified a breach of health and safety law resulting in formal written advice to the trust,” the spokesman said.

“The investigation identified that not all persons had received adequate face fit testing to ensure that the masks, worn as protective equipment for certain procedures, formed a tight seal to the face.

“Confirmation was provided by the trust that remedial action had been taken.”

 

This is valid as of 21st October 2021.

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New system for international travel

Earlier this month (17th September), Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a simplified system for international travel in light of the success of the UK’s domestic vaccine rollout.

The traffic light system is replaced by a single red list of countries and territories which will continue to be crucial in order to protect public health, and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world from Monday 4th October at 4am.

Testing requirements will also be reduced for eligible fully vaccinated travellers, who will no longer need to take a PDT when travelling to England from Monday 4th October, 4am.

From the end of October, eligible fully vaccinated passengers and those with an approved vaccine from a select group of non-red countries will be able to replace their day-two test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England. The government wants to introduce this by the end of October, aiming to have it in place for when people return from half-term breaks.

Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost to the traveller, which would be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants.

Testing for unvaccinated passengers from non-red countries will include pre-departure tests, day two and day 8 PCR tests. Test to release remains an option to reduce self-isolation period.

From 4th October, England will welcome fully vaccinated travellers from a host of new countries – who will be treated like returning fully vaccinated UK travellers – including 17 countries and territories such as Japan and Singapore, following the success of an existing pilot with the US and Europe.

Grant Shapps Transport Secretary said: “[These] changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry.

“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and with more than 8 in 10 adults vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”

A further review for the UK’s international travel policy is planned for early in the new year to provide further certainty for the spring and summer 2022 seasons.

Conducting the final regular traffic light review before the switch to the new two-tiered system, several additional countries and territories will move off the red list – Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya. Changes came into effect at 4am on Wednesday 22nd September.

Passengers who aren’t recognised as being fully vaccinated with authorised vaccines and certificates under England’s international travel rules will still have to take a pre-departure test, a day two and day 8 PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days upon their return from a non-red list country under the new two-tiered travel programme. Test to Release will remain an option for unvaccinated passengers who wish to shorten their isolation period.

From late October, the government will also be making changes to allow passengers who change flights or international trains during their journey to follow the measures associated with their country of departure, rather than any countries they have transited through as part of their journey.

All passengers will still need to fill in a passenger locator form ahead of travel. Passengers should continue to check GOV.UK travel guidance including FCDO travel advice before, during and after travel to keep up to date in entry requirements and ensure compliance with the latest COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 regulations for the country being visited.

 

This is valid as of 28th September 2021.

Earlier this month (17th September), Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a simplified system for international travel in light of the success of the UK’s domestic vaccine rollout.
The traffic light system is replaced by a single red list of countries and territories which will continue to be crucial in order to protect public health, and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world from Monday 4th October at 4am. Testing requirements will also be reduced for eligible fully vaccinated travellers, who will no longer need to take a PDT when travelling to England from Monday 4th October, 4am. From the end of October, eligible fully vaccinated passengers and those with an approved vaccine from a select group of non-red countries will be able to replace their day-two test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England. The government wants to introduce this by the end of October, aiming to have it in place for when people return from half-term breaks. Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost to the traveller, which would be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants. Testing for unvaccinated passengers from non-red countries will include pre-departure tests, day two and day 8 PCR tests. Test to release remains an option to reduce self-isolation period. From 4th October, England will welcome fully vaccinated travellers from a host of new countries – who will be treated like returning fully vaccinated UK travellers – including 17 countries and territories such as Japan and Singapore, following the success of an existing pilot with the US and Europe. Grant Shapps Transport Secretary said: “[These] changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry. “Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and with more than 8 in 10 adults vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.” A further review for the UK’s international travel policy is planned for early in the new year to provide further certainty for the spring and summer 2022 seasons. Conducting the final regular traffic light review before the switch to the new two-tiered system, several additional countries and territories will move off the red list – Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya. Changes came into effect at 4am on Wednesday 22nd September. Passengers who aren’t recognised as being fully vaccinated with authorised vaccines and certificates under England’s international travel rules will still have to take a pre-departure test, a day two and day 8 PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days upon their return from a non-red list country under the new two-tiered travel programme. Test to Release will remain an option for unvaccinated passengers who wish to shorten their isolation period. From late October, the government will also be making changes to allow passengers who change flights or international trains during their journey to follow the measures associated with their country of departure, rather than any countries they have transited through as part of their journey. All passengers will still need to fill in a passenger locator form ahead of travel. Passengers should continue to check GOV.UK travel guidance including FCDO travel advice before, during and after travel to keep up to date in entry requirements and ensure compliance with the latest COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 regulations for the country being visited.   This is valid as of 28th September 2021.