Like everyone, we have been watching the unfolding news on the spread of the COVID-19 virus and considering what this means for us and St Elizabeth’s. As one of the largest employers in Hertfordshire, we have been in regular contact with medical experts and have been carefully taking advice from them about what we need to be doing.
We are very aware of the threat that Coronavirus represents. Although its impact is not serious for most people who catch it, many of our residents are elderly or in poor health and for them, the virus could pose a very real risk to their health. Our priority over the coming days and weeks must therefore be to take all the steps we can to avoid it coming onto the site.
Over the past few months, we have been updating our Pandemic Action Plan, developing robust risk assessments, stockpiling on essential supplies and briefing our staff to ensure we are fully prepared. We are asking all staff, service-users and visitors to be really hygiene conscious, washing hands and equipment regularly and thoroughly, and using the hand sanitisers and other equipment we have supplied. We have also ensured information posters are available across the site, including easy-read versions for use by some of our clients where required.
We are also looking at ways to limit visitors to the site to ensure we can best protect our residents and staff. Clearly, we do not want any non-resident on-site who should be self-isolating. The official advice now (on the NHS 111 website) is that this should apply to anyone having “a persistent high temperature or fever” or “a new continuous cough”. It is really important that everyone follows this advice and should under no circumstances visit the site in order to safeguard our service-users (and staff). In addition, we are currently taking steps to reduce any non-essential visits and are postponing visits from volunteers in several departments, asking potential visitors to consider whether visits are necessary at this time or could be better done via a phone call, email or videoconferencing.
As you can see from the news, the numbers of cases are expected to continue to increase and the Government has updated its position on what we should be doing. While they have stopped short of closing schools and banning large gatherings, they are clearly keeping a close eye on what is happening elsewhere and it may not be too long before they do take steps like that. So, while for the time being, we are keeping all our services open, if the time comes when official advice changes, we may have to consider the closure of our school, college or any other education/skills based activity, although we will continue to provide our core residential services to all those who live on our sites. We are already writing out to all families on the current position and will be updating them again should anything significantly change.
Our senior teams are meeting and monitoring the situation daily, and putting all necessary safety measures in place as and when required.
Please keep checking our website and social media pages for further information and updates.