Virus tests for council workers in Harrogate 'should have happened much sooner', says union
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 today, Friday, 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 www.self-referral.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter
A message from the Editor
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.