Covid self-isolation spate fears if staff rush back to Norwich offices

Covid social distancing sign in Norwich.

Concerns have been raised that a return to work could prompt a spate of staff being told to self-isolate. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Business bosses have been urged not to rush workers back into Norwich offices - amid concern rising city coronavirus rates could trigger a spate of staff having to self-isolate.

Monday (July 19) has been dubbed Freedom Day, when Covid-19 restrictions, including the direction to work from home if possible, will be lifted.

But Stephen Evans, Norwich City Council chief executive, said the return of workers to City Hall will be a gradual process - and hopes other major employers will adopt a similar approach.

Cases in Norwich are rising. Between Wednesday, July 7 and Tuesday, July 13, 324 people had a confirmed positive result - an increase of more than 100pc on the previous week.

And a change, which means those double-jabbed and those under 18 will not have to self-isolate if they are a close contact of someone who tests positive, does not come into effect until August 16.

Stephen Evans, the new chief executive of Norwich City Council. Pic: Norwich City Council.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of Norwich City Council. - Credit: Norwich City Council

Mr Evans said City Hall's contact tracing team has seen its workload rise from about 20 cases a day to 120 - and is concerned that may increase further if workers rush back.

In an update to City Hall staff, urging a gradual return, he wrote: "The government is clearly expecting cases to continue to rise – perhaps significantly – as restrictions are eased, particularly amongst younger, unvaccinated groups.

"We’re continuing to track a range of data locally including case rates for various age groups, rates for different wards, and locations of specific outbreaks.

"You’ll also have seen the announcement that those who have had both jabs won’t need to self-isolate if they’ve been in contact with someone who tests positive but – crucially - that this won’t come into effect until August 16.

We need a robust, locally-led test and trace system

Changes which mean people who have been double-jabbed will not need to self-isolate if close contacts of someone who tests positive for Covid-19 do not come into effect until August 16. - Credit: Archant

"So, we’ll have a four week period where cases are likely to increase significantly and when people will be required to isolate.

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"I’m concerned about this in terms of the potential impact on the council, on local businesses and on those who will be impacted financially.

"We’ll need to manage this as best we can, drawing on the tried and tested support networks we have available."

Norwich City Council's City Hall headquarters. Photo: Nick Butcher.

A gradual return is planned for staff at City Hall. - Credit: EDP pics © 2007

Mr Evans recommends - and says he would prefer it - for council staff and councillors to wear masks around City Hall while cases are rising.