Sunday, 31 May 2020

Coronavirus: no need to panic

Coronavirus: no need to panic

THE fight against the coronavirus pandemic is being stepped up in the Henley area as it continues to spread across the UK.

There have been eight deaths from the virus and almost 500 confirmed cases nationwide, including five in Oxfordshire, 12 in Berkshire and two in Buckinghamshire.

A woman in her seventies became the UK’s first victim when she died at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading on Thursday last week.

Residents have been panic buying at supermarkets and chemists in Henley with hand sanitiser and supplies of other hygiene products and long-life goods running low or selling out entirely. Customers queued up outside Superdrug in Falaise Square on Friday morning. The shop now has a sign on the front door saying it has sold out of hand sanitiser but is due to receive a delivery today (Friday).

At Sainsbury’s in Bell Street there was no hand sanitiser left on the shelves on Monday while the Henley Pharmacy nearby had a sign on its door reading: “No hand sanitiser”.

Waitrose has a limited supply of handwash but its shelves were empty of toilet rolls earlier this week. A spokesman said: “We are seeing more demand for some products such as cleaning products and hand sanitisers.

“We are continuing to work closely with our suppliers to ensure that our customers have continuous access to the products they need.”

Tesco has introduced a maximum purchase limit of five per customer on items such as anti-bacterial products, dried pasta and long-life milk.

Meanwhile, schools, care homes, businesses, sports clubs and community groups in the area are taking precautions to minimise the potential spread of the virus.

Some care homes have limited the number of visits residents can receive and introduced stricter cleaning measures, while schools are ensuring they have a steady supply of soap and hand sanitiser.

Some businesses fear a downturn in trade due to the uncertainty posed by the virus and are offering refunds and credit for a limited period. However, most said they were trading as normal. Sonia Silva, manager of the Abbeycrest Care Home in Sonning Common, said relatives of residents had been sent advice by email.

She said: “We’re still open to visitors but it’s really to encourage them to be self-conscious and if they have got symptoms not to visit, even if they have flu symptoms.

“People are sanitising hands when they enter. This is something we had already before but people are more conscious.”

Bridget Kidd, who runs the Tower House care home in Shiplake, has cut down visits to twice a week.

She said: “Some of the residents have a visit every day with a different person and that’s a bit of a problem really.

“We’re cutting down and not allowing children because they are carriers apparently and we have the requirements from the Government such as washing hands all the time.”

Mrs Kidd said walking frames, bars, door handles and the front door buzzer were being cleaned and disinfected twice a day.

A spokeswoman for HC-One, which manages the Thamesfield care village off Wargrave Road, said it had robust policies in place to both prepare for and prevent the spread of any infection or virus, including coronavirus.

“We are confident that all reasonable steps have been taken to mitigate risk to residents and colleagues and that we have robust contingency plans in place.”

Nick Mattingley, chief executive of the Henley Festival, said preparations for the event in July were continuing as normal.

He said he was encouraged that other events, including Crufts and the Cheltenham Festival, had gone ahead as planned.

“They are taking precautions,” he said. “At the same time we’ll be watching and learning. It’s trying to make people feel comfortable in the environment and I think we will be learning as we go along, as will the public. We’re all in the same boat, aren’t we? In true British spirit, we keep calm and carry on.”

Sally Hughes, managing director of The Mill at Sonning theatre, said: “We are all of us about to go through a very difficult time. We are all worried about the effect that coronavirus might have on our health.

“It is also a very worrying time for businesses such as The Mill which host groups of people in their premises.

“The Mill has faced a few crises over the years but none so grave as this. I have always been on the front foot when it comes to surviving these problems. I was issuing letters to all our staff about hand washing and hygiene a week before the Government did and I put measures in place to keep our staff and customers as safe as possible.

“The experts say that the arc of contagion of coronavirus will probably happen over nine weeks. We will continue to operate but if anyone has bought a ticket and is worried about coming to The Mill during this time or becomes ill, you may contact us and ask for a credit.

“This refers, at the moment, to performances up to and including May 9. We have opened a special credit file and you will be able to use the money from your ticket to purchase a later performance. This credit will stay on file for 18 months.”

She added: “Can I just stress that we are open for business as usual.”

Henley Rugby Club reassured members and supporters that it was treating the outbreak “seriously” and was following the guidance set out by Public Health England. In a statement, the club said: “Based on the latest advice, we see no reason to change any plans for training and fixtures, while all events are to go ahead as advertised.

“Due to the number of people who use the club over the course of a week, specifically during Saturday and Sunday, we are asking everyone to follow the latest government advice.”

GLL, which manages Henley leisure centre, said the building in Gillotts Lane was open as normal but that it had fitted hand sanitisers.

A spokesman said: “We continue to follow the latest government advice regarding necessary precautions, virus control and hygiene.”

Henley Royal Regatta says it is monitoring the coronavirus situation carefully and there is no need to cancel the event based on the guidance it has received to date.

Debbie Robinson, of Henley Lettings, which specialises in providing accommodation for people attending the regatta, said: “As a business, we are planning for the worst but hoping for the best.

“Some overseas coaches and visiting families are questioning what will happen if they are not permitted to travel to the 2020 Henley Royal Regatta. We have assured them that we have a special policy in place should this happen.”

“For now it is business as usual and 2020 is already looking to be our biggest year yet. Many of our hosts have already secured bookings for 2020 and new enquiries are coming in thick and fast.”

Savile Row Travel in Market Place Mews, Henley, has introduced a coronavirus refund policy. All this month, all deposits will be 100 per cent refundable.

The business says there is “some hesitancy” for the market to book in the current climate. However, it says that if customers delay booking, then availability is likely to have dried up when they do decide to go.

Churches have also been taking precautions.

Rev Jeremy Tayler, the rector of Henley with Remenham, said he had put measures in place three weeks ago, including no longer shaking hands at The Peace.

He said: “I’m not doing any hand shaking anymore, which is difficult when I do things like funerals.

“The chalice is still there but I advise people at the beginning of the service that if they are feeling unwell, they shouldn’t take it and if they are worried they shouldn’t take it. I’ve just beefed up my hygiene.

“There’s a ritual hand-washing anyway with just water and we have added to that with hand sanitiser. I sanitise my hands at the beginning of the service anyway. If things do get round Henley I will probably be a super spreader because I’m seeing so many people and visiting so many people so I want to be super-cautious about it.”

Father Paul Fitzpatrick, parish priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Henley, said the use of hymn books had been suspended.

He explained: “When people come into the church they receive hand sanitiser straight away. We won’t pass the collection plate around or anything like that. We are fortunate that we have contactless and you can use your credit card.”

The church also no longer gives out the chalice for people to receive communion wine.

Father Fitzpatrick added: “We hope those who are housebound, or people who have to self-isolate, will be able to watch the service online via our website. By next week we’ll have a video link. I think we have to be prepared, not just respond but to be proactive and think what we can do about this.”

A coronavirus day of prayer will be held at Holy Trinity Church in Henley tomorrow (Saturday) from 9am to 5pm.

Doctors are urging patients who suspect they have coronavirus symptoms not to visit their surgeries.

They say if that if they do it could potentially jeopardise the health of other patients and prevent many more accessing the surgeries as they would have to close for a deep clean.

Patients who have symptoms, which include a fever, cough and breathing difficulties, should instead self-isolate and call the NHS 111 number.

The Wargrave surgery’s dispensary is issuing prescriptions two months at a time in order to manage resources during the coronavirus outbreak. This is to reduce footfall at the surgery and pharmacies in order to minimise the potential of the virus spreading.

On Tuesday the Goring and Woodcote Medical Practice announced that all appointments would be on the telephone initially.

It said the GPs would do all they can to help over the phone but if they felt they needed to see a patient face-to-face for an examination, they would invite them into the surgery.

In a statement, the practice said: “Our aim is to significantly reduce the footfall through our surgeries in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus which may pose a significant risk to patients, especially those who are frail, elderly or have an underlying medical condition.

“Our triage service will operate as normal for emergency medical issues and your care will not be compromised. You will still be able to book a telephone consultation with your GP.

“If your GP appointment is regarding a routine matter, we would ask if you could kindly contact us so this can be postponed. During this time, we will also temporarily postpone online booking.”

People can still attend the surgery for urgent blood tests and for dressing or wound reviews and hormone injections relating to cancer.

The collection of their prescriptions from dispensaries and surgeries is not affected.

The Bell Surgery in Henley is converting all face-to-face appointments to telephone appointments. It has sent text messages and emails to patients to advise them of this.

The surgery still needs to provide face-to-face appointments for some patients but says it will be better protecting the population if it limits the numbers coming in.

It has set up a separate entrance to reduce the amount of contact patients have to have with others attending.

It has also asked patients to respect those who need to use the surgery car park as a priority, such as the elderly, frail or acutely unwell. There are limited spaces in the car park, which it shares with the Hart Surgery next door.

Some schools are monitoring soap and hand sanitiser supplies, while others have ordered extra.

Darren Gray, headteacher at The Piggott School in Wargrave, said the school had ordered and received hand sanitiser for all its classrooms together with boxes of tissues and had ordered more.

He said: “Our toilets are cleaned each evening by our cleaning contractors and monitored during the day. Every single toilet area has hand wash and hand-drying facilities.

“Children are being reminded about good handwashing at assemblies and posters displaying advice are in evidence around the site.

“The school will continue to prioritise the health, safety and wellbeing of all pupils, staff, parents and the wider school community.”

Mat Hunter, headteacher of Icknield Community College in Watlington, said it was taking daily advice from the Department for Education and Public Health England.

He said: “We are monitoring, closely, soap in the toilets across the campus. If students discover that soap has run out in the dispensers, they must report this immediately so our site staff can refill them.”

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