COVID-19 information, support and guidance for City businesses

Updated 15 December 2021. For the latest guidance, please visit GOV.UK

It is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated. Being vaccinated reduces your risk of becoming severely ill and dying from the disease.

COVID-19 is spread by airborne transmission, as well as close contact via droplets, and via surfaces. Airborne transmission is a very significant way that the virus circulates, and especially in busy indoor spaces with poor ventilation.

When someone with COVID-19 breathes, speaks, coughs, or sneezes, they release particles containing the virus that causes COVID-19. The particles can come into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth, or can be breathed in by another person.  In a poorly ventilated space, this means that an infected person can infect others, even those they are not in close contact with.

That’s why good ventilation and bringing fresh air into indoor spaces is key. See below for more advice on ventilation.

Face coverings are now the law in more settings

It is now the law that people must wear a face covering in most indoor settings, excluding nightclubs, hospitality settings (other than takeaway-only), and gyms/ fitness studios.

Even in these settings where face coverings are not legally  required,  it is still advised that face coverings are worn in crowded and enclosed spaces.

The full list of settings where face coverings must be worn by law can be found here. In settings where face coverings are legally required, it’s also a requirement to display signage to inform visitors, customers, and staff.

Download a poster to display on your premises here.

Download a poster asking customers to sanitise their hands here.

Local guidance for businesses

Guidance is available for local businesses in a range of sectors through City and Hackney Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These include SOPs for Hospitality, Gyms and fitness studios, Offices, Retail and close-contact services, and more. Access the guidance here.

Please note these documents are reviewed and refreshed on a regular basis to reflect changes in Government guidance.

Local requirements for reporting positive COVID-19 cases in, or linked to, your workplace 

COVID-19 and the virus that causes it – SARS-COV-2 – is a notifiable disease.

Businesses of any sector and any size, which are located in the City of London or Hackney, are requested to get in touch with the local Public Health team to let them know of positive cases among their workforce and/ or linked to their business activities, if they reach the thresholds below.

This means that the Public Health team can provide support early on, to minimise harm to staff and customers and minimise the risk of major disruption to the business, for example through having to close as a result of a large outbreak.

  • For offices and other similar settings: If 10% or more of the workforce attending the workplace has tested positive, within the past 14 days, or sooner.
  • For large offices and other large similar settings (250+ staff) attending the workplace: If 5% or more of the workforce attending the workplace has tested positive, within the past 14 days, or sooner.
  • For construction sites/ factories/ warehouses/ other settings deemed critical to national infrastructure: If there are 2 positive cases within the workplace within the past 14 days, or sooner.

If the thresholds are not met, it is not necessary to report positive cases to the Public Health team and/ or the UK Health Security Agency’s London Coronavirus Response Cell (LCRC) (previously known as Public Health England), however, we ask that you keep the situation under review in a timely manner, and get in touch if you have any concerns or require any support.

Where the number of cases associated with your workplace does meet the reporting threshold, please report to both the local authority (City of London Corporation and Hackney Council) – testandtrace@hackney.gov.uk – and LCRC – LCRC@phe.gov.uk / 0300 303 0450.

You should immediately identify any close workplace contacts and notify them that they may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. Do not wait for NHS Test and Trace. This prompt action can help reduce the risk of a workplace outbreak.

Ventilation

Consider the airborne risks of COVID-19. Bringing the outside in through opening windows and doors to fresh air can make a big impact in reducing the risk of particles being breathed out from someone who is infected, and breathed in by others. Making use of outdoor spaces avaialable to your business is another way to help keep staff and customers safe. This simple ventilation tool from the British Occupational Hygiene Society can be used to help businesses work out whether the ventilation they have is enough to help reduce transmission, or where and how further steps can be taken, if not.

You may also like to consider using a CO2 monitor to identify any poorly ventilated areas in your venue.

COVID-19 testing

Free NHS COVID-19 tests are available for people without symptoms: rapid (lateral flow) tests for people without symptoms, and PCR tests for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms. Rapid (lateral flow) tests are not appropriate for people with symptoms. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 (see below) must self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test.

One in three people with COVID-19 does not show any symptoms. This means they could be spreading it to others without knowing. It is advised that anyone without symptoms of COVID-19 tests regularly with a lateral flow test, especially ahead of visiting busy indoor spaces, such as shops, restaurants, and offices. This may mean testing more frequently than twice a week. Frequent rapid testing can help people to identify when they have COVID-19 and need to self-isolate, helping to stop the spread of the virus. We have seen examples of where rapid testing has helped to prevent outbreaks in workplaces.

More details about how City workers can access these tests can be found here.

Additional symptoms of COVID-19

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 must self-isolate and order a PCR test. As well as the three main symptoms (a new continuous cough, a fever/ high temperature, a change/ loss of sense of taste/ smell), there are additional symptoms that we recommend you take a PCR for. These can be similar to cold or flu symptoms, and include:

  • Sore throat and/ or hoarseness
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Persistent headache
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle ache or pain
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing

COVID-19 vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and the best way to protect individuals against severe disease and death from the virus. They can also help to protect others.

Everyone aged 12+ is eligible for a first or second dose, and everyone aged 18+ is eligible for a booster dose (16+ for those with  severely weakened immune system). Information about accessing the COVID-19 vaccine can be found here. Booster vaccines are being advised to hep protect individuals against the Omicron variant.

While it is not mandatory to get a COVID-19 vaccine, employers have an important role to play in encouraging and supporting staff to get vaccinated.

This can include, for example:

The CIPD has published some useful resources on policies and procedures to assist businesses encouraging their staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

For more details on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the City Corporation website.

Working from home

From 13 December, office workers and others who are able to work from home should do so. Maintaining physical distance from others is one of the first measures in the hierarchy of control measures to reduce the sperad of disease.

NHS COVID Pass

From 15 December, certain veues and events are legally required to check that all visitors aged 18+ are either fully vaccinated, or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test in the last 48 hours. This means that they will need to show their NHS COVID Pass, or alternative proof of a negative test result, to gain entry to a range of venues, including nightclubs and other venues open between 1am and 5am, or which serve alcohol during this time.

More details are available here.

Self-isolation rules

From 11 January, COVID-19 testing rules in England are changing. Anyone without symptoms of COVID-19 will not need a follow-up confirmatory PCR test if they receive a positive result on a lateral flow (rapid) test. This is because COVID-19 levels are high, and rapid tests (LFTs) are highly accurate at identifying when someone has the virus. As is currently the case, anyone receiving a positive test result on an LFT must self-isolate immediately for the required time, and register their result.  After reporting a positive LFT result, an individual will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace for contact tracing purposes.

There are some instances where someone may still need to take a confirmatory PCR test, such as those wishing to apply for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment, those who are at particular risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, or those participating in surveillance or research programmes. Full details here.

The earliest someone who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can end their self-isolation after testing positive on an LFT is seven days after their positive result (the day of the first test is Day 0), as long as:

  • They receive negative results from a lateral flow (rapid) test taken on Days 6 and 7. Both tests must return a negative result and the tests must be taken at least a full 24 hours apart. Day 0 is the day a positive LFT result is received (or when symptoms start, if the individual is symptomatic and has ordered a PCR)
  • They do not have a high temperature or any other symptoms.

If either/ both of the above conditions are not met, self-isolation must continue for the full 10 days. If the Day 6 test is positive, self-isolation must continue. Further tests can be taken on subsequent days – Day 7, 8, or 9. If two lateral flow tests taken 24 hours apart on consecutive days are negative, self-isolation can be ended.

If symptoms develop during the isolation, the period of isolation resets.

It is not permitted for someone to end their isolation earlier than 7 days (where applicable), even if they have received negative results on LFTs during that time.

Anyone ending their isolation on day seven is strongly advised to limit contact with vulnerable people, not visit crowded or poorly ventilated spaces (and wear a face covering over their nose and mouth if this cannot be avoided), and work from home wherever possible, for at least 10 full days since Day 0. This is to further reduce the risk of passing on COVID-19 to others.

There are different self-isolation rules for people who are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, depending on whether they have been fully vaccinated (2 doses) against COVID-19, or not.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 – no matter how mild – must self-isolate and book a PCR test. LFTs are not suitable for people experiencing symptoms.

Supporting staff with additional access needs for rapid testing

  • Translated information:

Instructions and information for rapid tests is available in different languages and can be accessed on the GOV.UK website.

In addition, 119 is open every day, 7am-11am, and can provide support in 200 languages.

  • British Sign Language support:

InterpreterNow is a free online British Sign Language interpreter service for 119.

Author
Xenia Koumi

Xenia is a Public Health Specialist at the City of London Corporation and leads the Business Healthy programme
Xenia.Koumi@cityoflondon.gov.uk