Stay away from community groups if you have a cold, says Hertfordshire County Council

The advice is part of a range of measures on the council's website

Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 9:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 9:48 am

Community groups in Hertfordshire should ask members with ANY symptoms of cold or flu to stay away – according to county council advice on coronavirus.

The advice is part of a range of measures on the Hertfordshire County Council website designed to give the best protection to community groups against the new virus.

But startling as it may sound, the county council says it’s no different to the advice they offer every year during the flu season.

Coronavirus advice

The published advice for community groups also includes the use of hand gel at entrances, good hygiene and hand-washing and regularly cleaning surfaces.

Currently there are three unconnected patients in Hertfordshire who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus – known as covid-19 – who are all being treated in hospital.

But speaking at a meeting of Hertfordshire’s Health Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday (March 4) director of pubic health Jim McManus reassured councillors.

He said that the vast majority of coronavirus patients – around 80 per cent – could expect a ‘comparatively mild illness’, like a bad flu.

And he highlighted a phone conversation with one patient, who had told him that despite being in hospital he was sitting up in bed working.

He also pointed to the patient in Brighton – who he said had “unhelpfully” been labelled a ‘super-spreader’ – who was now fully recovered and back at work.

And he said there had been a lack of focus on the number of patients who had recovered.

He said he expected there to be more cases in the county – but that they were “ready”.

As part of their readiness to deal with cases of coronavirus, the county council has already set up a dedicated schools helpline and briefed social care providers.

Mr McManus has helped to draw up advice for churches. And staff are making efforts to make sure train operators are doing the right things too.

Meanwhile it was also reported that the county’s local resilience forum was looking at plans for a whole range of potential issues – including the supply of food – just in case they were required.

As part of the wide-ranging Q&A session at the meeting of the Health Scrutiny Committee, Mr McManus pointed to talk of drive-through testing for the virus – and testing in patients homes.

When it came to train travel, he said that he was a sceptic about the effectiveness of ‘cough-free’ carriages.

But he advised passengers to wash their hands before getting on the train, to avoid people who are ill and to avoid touching their faces – before washing hands again after getting off the train.

Cllr Chris White had specifically raised the threat the virus posed to groups of older people who ‘flocked’ to Harpenden to play Bridge – where cards could ‘probably’ be as ‘filthy’ as bank notes.

So Mr McManus suggested they was their hands when they start and finish their game and avoid touching their faces.

Meanwhile executive member for public health and prevention Cllr Tim Hutchings told the committee he was ‘confident’ that Hertfordshire was on top of this.

He pointed to “some quite alarming” messages on social media, which were untrue. And he urged everyone to be careful what they put in social media.

Council officials have stressed that the advice to community groups to ask members to refrain from attending if they have symptoms of cold or flu is no different to the advice they offer every year during the flu season.

“The information provided for community groups is no different to prevention advice that we provide each flu season,” said a spokesperson for the county council.

But speaking at the meeting of the Health Scrutiny Committee, Mr McManus said: “We have become too complacent about flu. And one of the things we need to do is resurrect our rigour about flu that we have lost to protect us against coronavirus.”

The council’s ‘frequently asked questions’ about coronavirus can be found on their website.