COVID-19 information, support and guidance for City businesses
Updated 1 April 2022. For the latest guidance, please visit GOV.UK
Cases of COVID-19 remain high in London, and health and safety legal requirements remain in place for businesses to protect the health and safety of their employees, as well as anyone else affected by their business’ activities, including contracted staff, visitors, and customers.
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 primarily spread in the air, and to a lesser extent via surfaces and through close contact by droplets. The risk of spread is particularly high in busy/ highly populated 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.
Asissting people who are unwell to remain at home and isolate is the most important control measure, as this reduces the risk of them being able to transmit infectious diseases to others, and to keep others healthy and safe. It’s also why good ventilation and bringing fresh air into indoor spaces is key. See below for more advice on ventilation.
Using a combination of preventative measures, such as ensuring people who are unwell remain at home, good ventilation and bringing fresh air in, wearing of face coverings indoors in highly-populated spaces – among others – is the most effective way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission among individuals.
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. The latest update was on 28 February 2022.
Local requirements for reporting positive COVID-19 cases in, or linked to, your workplace
The City and Hackney Public Health team’s Test and Trace inbox will no longer be active from 15 April. Please do not email this inbox from this date, instead, for COVID-related support or advice please call 119 or visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Businesses of any sector and any size, which are located in the City of London or Hackney, and which may be experiencing a potential outbreak among their workforce, are encouraged to report to the UK Health Security Agency’s London Coronavirus Response Cell (LCRC). In doing so, they may be able to access additional support to minimise business disruption relating to an outbreak.
When to contact UKHSA LCRC:
- If your organisation is not critical to national infrastructure (e.g. office-based, customer-facing, retail), but the situation escalates, or you have specific concerns that the number of cases is widespread and you suspect transmission within the workplace.
- If your organisation is critical to national infrastructure (e.g. national/ local government, transport, key critical workers involved, etc), contact LCRC when: there are 2+ cases who work in the same area/ team (i.e. where they are likely to have come into contact with one another); you are having operational issues due to COVID-19; you are having trouble managing a COVID-19 outbreak; you are getting significant media interest due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
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. Many air handling systems simply recirculate air, so do not assume that fresh air is automatically being brought in through an air conditioning unit, for example.
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 setting.
As of 1 April 2022 access to free lateral flow and PCR tests is no longer free, apart from to help protect specific groups.
Individuals and employers are still able to access paid-for tests. By law, all COVID-19 tests must meet certain minimum standards set by the government. Providers must also complete a declaration stating that their tests meet these standards. Some providers are also UKAS-accredited. Rapid tests are available from a number of high street outlets, such as pharmacies, as well as providers listed on the government website.
Evidence shows that having two vaccines and a booster can reduce your chances of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, as well as reducing the risk of developing Long COVID. Being vaccinated also reduces the risk that you can catch and therefore transmit the virus to others.
As of 28 March 2022, 54% of Londoners have not yet received a booster dose, and 30% have not received any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Among working-age adults under 40 years old, vaccine take-up is lower across all age groups.
Employers have an important role in supporting their workforce – employers and contractors alike – to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Not only does it help to keep the workforce safe and healthy, but it also makes good business sense. Examples of proactive support businesses can provide include:
- Paid/ supported time off to attend a vaccination appointment during working hours
- Paid sick leave for anyone feeling unwell post-vaccination
- Promoting local vaccination clinics, and the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine (mythbusting, etc) – sharing materials (such as translated resources)
Ongoing vaccination clinics
There is a community pharmacy vaccination site at Boots, 120 Fleet Street, offering the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Appointments can be booked via the national booking service. Visit www.NHS.uk/covidvaccine for more information. A full list of vaccination sites serving the City and Hackney can be accessed here.
All COVID-19 vaccines are available free of charge from the NHS. Everyone who is 12 years old or older can be vaccinated regardless of whether they are registered with a GP or their immigration status.