People who cannot work from home are warned to be on their guard against the spread of COVID-19 as research highlights workplaces as virus hotspots in Cheshire West and Chester.
Information gathered by Cheshire West and Chester Council suggests that a high level of positive cases can be linked directly or indirectly to workplaces as people pick up the infection at work and then spread it to their household.
In a sample of positive cases in the borough between 7 and 20 January, 30% appear to be caused by workplace transmission.
In addition to this, the sample shows that 45% of household outbreaks, where there is more than one case, appear to have been caused by a member of the household being infected at work then infecting people they live with.
Current infection rate data shows that there were 766 positive cases in the seven days up to 3 February, which is a rate of 223 per 100,000 people.
Cllr Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: "Overall, our infection rate in the borough has been coming down, but not as fast as we would like.
We know that businesses and organisations are working hard to keep their sites COVID-safe but our research suggests that a high proportion of positive cases at the moment are linked to workplaces.
"What this research shows is that none of us can be complacent – we must always be on our guard against this virus.
"I applaud all our businesses and organisations for their resilience in operating during a global pandemic – which none of us have ever experienced before.
"I urge everyone – from business owners to individual employees – to continue to do all you can to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"Put measures in place, maintain them, improve in them and always remember hands, face space, whether unavoidable car sharing, on breaks or working. Let's turn this around."
Measures include working from home where possible, minimising interaction between people in offices and enforcing strong management of COVID-secure conditions when people must be on-site, including three-ply face coverings, hand and equipment hygiene and encouraging regular testing of staff.
Businesses and organisations are urged to access options like flexible furlough and financial support schemes.
They should ensure contact tracing is undertaken in the workplace when a colleague tests positive for the virus and that self-isolation rules are followed immediately on suspicion of symptoms or any positive test.
Advice for businesses and employees about how to ensure a workplace is COVID-safe for people who cannot work from home is available by visiting: www.gov.uk/coronavirus and clicking on work and financial support.
During the COVID-19 pandemic so far the Council has worked with more than 1,000 of the borough's businesses, including shops, pubs and restaurants, hairdressers, beauticians, barbers, taxi firms, childminders, care homes, gyms and manufacturers, supporting them to put in the best measures to keep staff and residents safe.
Regular and rapid COVID-19 testing is also available in Cheshire West and Chester for people without symptoms who have to go out to work during the lockdown.
Ian Ashworth, Director of Public Health at Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: "One in three people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms, so this kind of regular testing for people who can't work from home is essential in finding those cases and stopping the spread."
Testing for people without symptoms is available at Stanney Oaks Leisure Centre, in Ellesmere Port, and Winsford Lifestyle Centre.
Both centres are open from 9am to 7pm from Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.
No appointment is necessary.
For more information visit: www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk and click on COVID-19 testing.
Businesses with between 50 and 250 employees can access tests through the National Workforce Testing scheme at: www.gov.uk/get-workplace-coronavirus-tests.
Businesses with more than 250 employees can register to take part in a government testing scheme.
To register their interest in the scheme, businesses must send their company name, registration number, contact details and sector type, along with the number of employees to P-and-PSector@dhsc.gov.uk with 'Register interest for National Worker Programme' in the subject line.
Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, including a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, should self-isolate immediately and book a test by ringing: 119 or visiting: www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.
Local testing sites for people with symptoms are available at Little Roodee, in Chester, Queensway, in Winsford, Sealand Road Park and Ride, in Blacon, the Old Depot, in Northwich, and Wellington Road, in Ellesmere Port.
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