Nearly 400 Sandwell Council staff self-isolate amid coronavirus pandemic
Nearly 400 Sandwell Council workers have placed themselves in self-isolation – as the authority announced it was closing a range of public buildings in order to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Councillor Yvonne Davies, council leader, revealed 370 employees had reported symptoms of the virus at the first meeting of an emergency committee set up after all public council meetings were cancelled.
The staff concerned are self-isolating, in line with Government guidance, due to illness themselves or because they live with someone showing coronavirus symptoms. Some of those self-isolating are of course still able to work and are doing so from home. Not everyone self-isolating is reporting symptoms.
The news came as she announced the all local offices, apart from West Bromwich’s Court House and Oldbury Local Council House, were to close to the public.
In addition, 13 libraries are to shut leaving only six to remain open in West Bromwich, Oldbury, Smethwick, Wednesbury, Blackheath and Tipton – but she warned they may close in the future.
Speaking to an almost empty council chamber as councillors and officers used video conferencing, Councillor Davies said: “I know people will be worried, the public is worried, our staff are worried.
"We need to be clear that this is a major incident that is going to last for many months.”
Saying some 1,100 staff were working from home she added that it was impossible for all council employees to do so because of the nature of their work.
Members of the committee agreed to a range of changes to the authority’s procedures to allow the leader of the council and senior officers to make decisions and authorise payments of up to £2 million in the absence of normal meetings in order to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak.
Councillor Davies added: “It is imperative that the council is able to react to the changing demands and the needs of residents of the borough.
"I am determined that this council will do all it can to support its residents, its businesses and its voluntary and community sector during these difficult times.”
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