Oxford City Council supports new initiatives to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak

Published: Saturday, 29th August 2020

Oxford City Council is urging residents to take every caution against coronavirus, as cases this week have tipped the city into an amber warning.

The council is working with Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health initiatives in tackling the increased number of cases of COVID-19 by communicating the safety guidance, and putting in place measures to support social distancing to ensure the city is kept running as safely as possible.

Latest figures in Oxford

In the seven days up to 21 August, there have been 86 confirmed cases in Oxfordshire, up from 65 cases in the previous week. The latest data is available here.

As before, the majority of the new cases are in Oxford, where the number has risen from 28 to 41. And again, the increase is predominantly among young people – the rise in cases is focused on the 18-29 age bracket.

This means that the weekly rate for Oxford currently stands at 26.9 cases per 100,000 population. The city now is at amber alert status, and Oxfordshire’s Public Health Surveillance Unit is monitoring the situation very closely. If cases continue to rise, then it’s likely that some local control measures will be introduced.

In common with other parts of the country the evidence is that at least some of this rise is due to people returning from holiday and testing positive.

What the Council is doing

The council has been promoting the government guidance on preventing the spread of the virus through a number of measures including:

  • six officers carrying out daily patrols and inspections in the City Centre and district centres such as the Cowley Road to ensure social distancing rules are being adhered to;
  • inspections of licensed premises to ensure they are complying with government requirements, including the closure of George Street this weekend;
  • working with retail business, pubs, restaurants and cafes to emphasise the use of face masks and collecting track and trace data, in particular with late night food vans / take aways where social distancing is very difficult;
  • the East Oxford Community Hub team are engaging with East Oxford Businesses on the Cowley Road and at Templars Square;
  • contacting Taxi and Private Hire trade, encouraging drivers to wear face coverings while working and customers to do the same;
  • putting out appeals for face mask donations for our food boxes, to help the financially excluded comply;
  • regularly publishing safety messages on the Rediscover Oxford website.

In response to the rise in cases among young people the Council has also

  • used social media to promote mask wearing among young people, especially on buses ;
  • worked with our community networks and groups to disseminate messages – particularly those connected with 18-30 demographic;
  • targeted areas where young people live and gather with posters in bus stops and community noticeboards to promote government guidance;

Actions residents can take

Residents are urged to take action themselves to prevent further spread of the virus:

  • Keep your distance
  • Avoid busy gatherings
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Use hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available
  • Wear a face covering:
    • On public transport
    • In places where it is hard to stay away from people, such as shops
    • When you go to a hospital appointment or visit someone in hospital

Self-isolation reminder for people who have been on holidays to nations not on exempt list

If you have been abroad on holiday to countries that are not on the official exempt list you must self-isolate for 14 days when you return.

What does self-isolation entail?

  • Do not go to work, school or public places – work from home if you can
  • Do not go on public transport or use taxis
  • Do not go out to get food and medicine – order it online or by phone, or ask someone to bring it to your home
  • Do not have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for providing essential care
  • Do not go out to exercise – exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one.

Information on what’s happening in the city and detailed advice, including how to get a test if you think you have symptoms, is available on the Oxfordshire County Council - Stop the Spread website.

Temporary testing centre in Cowley

To help identify positive cases and support test and trace, a mobile testing unit (MTU) is being deployed in Oxford for three days from tomorrow (Friday) until Sunday, 10am-4.30pm. The MTU will be sited on the car park in Union Street, just off Cowley Road, behind Tesco.

People are able to drive or walk to the site, but are strongly encouraged to book first by calling 119 or registering online on the GOV.UK website. The facility is designed for people who have symptoms.

Public Health statement for Oxfordshire

My appeal to everyone in Oxford is to remember what got us out of lockdown. Do we really want to end up with the kind of local control measures we have seen introduced in various parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Leicester and Aberdeen?

At the minute it feels like we are moving in that direction. People need to be aware their behaviour is putting themselves and others at risk. If you’re young and catch COVID-19, you’re absolutely not guaranteed to get away with the mildest symptoms. Even mild symptoms are a struggle, while longer-term symptoms can include chronic fatigue, muscle weakness and memory loss.

Equally you may well pass this onto older or more vulnerable people. How would you feel if you knew that someone was in hospital in a ventilator with their life under threat because you’d passed COVID-19 on to them?

Now is the time to act to #stopthespread. I’ve said it over and over – this whole situation is in our own hands. We all need to act responsibly and follow the very simple advice. If we do that collectively, we will reverse this upward trend that we are seeing in Oxford. If we don’t bring the infection rate under control then measures will be introduced of the kind we’ve seen elsewhere in the country. It’s that simple.

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health

We’ve been working hard to get the message out to residents, local businesses and staff members to take safety precautions to help stop the virus from spreading. 

Alongside promoting the safety message we have been caring for our most vulnerable community members through our donations scheme and locality hubs.  We have also supported local businesses to run safely and efficiently through our safety inspections and engagement.

We are working through all our networks to try to get the message out widely across the city, we need residents and businesses to take action now. The virus is an opportunist, and every time we bend the rules ‘just this once’ we give it an opportunity to spread. We all hope we can avoid a local lockdown in Oxford, but to do that we all need to stick to the guidelines,.

I would urge residents in our city to keep up-to-date with the latest news and advice through our social media, and to remain vigilant. Our community safety measures and all of us abiding by the rules will allow us to enjoy all that our wonderful city has to offer.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council