Hertfordshire's public health chief advises working from home where possible

Heath officials are developing a Winter Health Guide

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 1:18 pm

Hertfordshire residents are being advised to ‘work from home if they can’, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging the nation to ‘get back to work in the normal way’.

Since the start of the pandemic, many thousands of employees nationwide have swapped their usual desks for their kitchen tables – and an often lengthy commute for a trip downstairs.

Earlier this week, PM Boris Johnson signalled that it was time for office-based staff to go back to their normal workplaces.

The new winter health guide was highlighted at a media briefing by Hertfordshire director of public health Jim McManus

But Hertfordshire public health chief Jim McManus is advising residents to continue to work from home if they can.

It’s part of a package of suggested measures he outlined at a virtual media briefing on Wednesday, October 6.

He also advises residents get the Covid-19 vaccine – as well as a booster, if eligible – and the flu vaccine, as well as wearing a face covering in crowded or enclosed places, such as public transport.

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He says residents should continue to regularly wash and sanitise hands and to let fresh air in if meeting others indoors – stressing that it is safer to meet outdoors.

And he suggests that residents should work from home where they can.

At that briefing, Mr McManus pointed to a ‘mixed picture’ across the county – with significantly higher case rates than 12 months ago, but lower numbers needing hospital treatment.

This time last year (2020), he said, there were 55 Covid-19 cases in Hertfordshire, per 100,000 population.

But now that rate – at around 350 per 100,000 population – is more than six times higher.

Mr McManus says the virus is still spreading ‘very happily’ and that the Delta variant is spreading much more easily.

But while he says the county is in ‘a different place’, as a result of the vaccine programme, he says further measures are still required.

“We are in a very different place than we were last year because the vaccine has made a difference,” he said.

“But the vaccine is not the only thing – and we still need people to take some measures to stop infection, because it is largely people who are unvaccinated who are getting seriously ill.”

Mr McManus suggests working from home, where possible and easy to do, is a measure that really can help to cut infection – reducing the number of ‘contacts’ a person has, on average, by about 60 a week.

He says that many businesses are keen to continue with a hybrid model of working- where employees spend some time in the office and some working from home.

And he says that the ‘work from home if you can’ approach can reduce crowding – reducing the numbers of people in workplaces, buses and trains.

“Don’t take it as a slavish rule, but if you work from home at least part of the week – so you reduce your social interaction – that really does help cut infection,” he said.

“It will reduce something like, for the average person, 60 to 70 in-person contacts a week.

“And if at the minute Covid is one in every 87 people in some parts of the county that will reduce the number of people you come across.”

Meanwhile Hertfordshire’s director of public health Mr McManus also reported that the county council and heath officials are developing a Winter Health Guide, that will be delivered to homes across the county from November 22.

The guide will contain advice from council officials and the NHS about ways to keep healthy, as well as detailing the support available to residents.

And it is designed to avoid rising hospital admissions and the need for tougher Covid-19 restrictions.