Advice on Coronavirus from the Director of Public Health

The Director of Public Health for City of York has asked me to send the following message:
This is an update on the coronavirus situation in York as at 14:00 on Sunday 02 February. Please feel free to share this with your constituents who might find it helpful.
The key message is that there have not been any further cases. The risk from coronavirus to individuals living and working in York continues to be low and the City is a safe place to visit. We are operating business as usual.
The situation is being closely monitored and advice may change. The lead agency is Public Health England (PHE). City of York Council (CYC) is being advised by PHE and will respond accordingly. For the latest national updates please go to www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
The CYC communications team are working closely with the PHE communications team and are doing an excellent job in sharing PHE updates with our partners across the City including schools, universities and Make it York.
We are responding directly to any queries that come through to us through our established channels and signposting people to specialist information from PHE as appropriate. Information is available on the CYC website with links to useful advice and updates are also now being shared via twitter. I have done an interview with Radio York this morning and will be doing further interviews with local media over the coming days as further updates become available. PHE will be launching a national health promotion campaign shortly that will be aimed at the general public and we will, of course, be supporting this locally as well.
Since the 2 cases were confirmed in York last Friday I have been having daily conversations with PHE and with the Vale of York CCG representing York Hospital and GP practices. Our local NHS services are well prepared and are ready to respond as needed.
Similarly I am having regular internal meetings in CYC with key officers and council services are well prepared to respond if needed.
I have been impressed by how quickly PHE has stepped in to support the University of York and Staycity Aparthotel. As an outcome of the work that PHE has been doing to identify close contacts of these persons it has been confirmed that there are no close contacts at the University and any close contacts at the hotel have been identified and contacted by PHE. Therefore I can reassure you that the risk to students and to the general public in York from coronavirus is low. The University of York has a dedicated web page here www.york.ac.uk/alert
Close contacts are defined as individuals who have been within 2 metres of an infected person for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Current intelligence suggests that the coronavirus is behaving in a similar way to seasonal flu which we are all used to dealing with every winter. For the majority of people flu is an unpleasant infection which can take a week or so to recover from but it doesn’t cause any long lasting harm. The elderly and people with existing long term health conditions such as heart disease and chronic lung disease appear to be most at risk. The World Health Organisation and PHE are monitoring the situation in China and as more intelligence is gathered it will improve our understanding of the infection and how to prevent its spread.
There are basic steps that people can take to protect themselves from infection:
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water regularly and always before eating. If soap and water is not available use alcohol based hand gel which can be bought in most supermarkets and community pharmacies
  • There is no clear evidence that wearing a face mask provides any protection so this is not recommended.
  • Catching coughs and sneezes is vitally important. People should use a paper issue, not their hands, make sure that their nose and mouth are completely covered so that no spray escapes and dispose of the tissue as soon as possible afterwards e.g. by flushing down the toilet. If no tissue is immediately available the advice is to sneeze into the inside of your elbow.
As things stand currently it is not necessary to introduce widespread infection control measures in York schools or other public buildings, including council buildings. I will be closely monitoring the situation and will take specialist advice from PHE as to whether this might be helpful if we should have an increase in the number of cases testing positive for the coronavirus.
The advice to individuals remains unchanged. If anyone has symptoms of the virus – feeling feverish, cough, shortness of breath and they are worried they may been in contact with someone who has the coronavirus – they should not visit A&E or their GP surgery since this may spread infection. Instead ask people to contact NHS 111 for further advice.

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