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New lockdown begins

On Monday January 4th the Prime Minister announced a new national lockdown.

This means you must not leave your home except where necessary and schools across the country will close. People are being urged to heed the advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Below is a summary of how Council services are being affected currently:-

Financial support

Details of which individuals, self-employed people and people who run businesses are entitled to financial support – and how they can claim it – can be found on the government website. This also includes a handy ‘postcode search’ functionality. Details are coming through of further financial support from government for those affected by the new lockdown and officers will be looking at what this means and how the council will need to be involved in co-ordinating the distribution of this where applicable.

Humanitarian support

Wirral Council and its partners are in the process of re-establishing the Emergency Food Hub, that provided such effective support to people during the initial lockdown period up until 31st July. Officers are striving to have this service up and running again by next week. In the meantime, people can still request help using the 0151 666 5050 COVID-19 helpline, which has been in place constantly since last March. And don’t forget, the Wirral Infobank website is an excellent ‘one stop shop’ for advice, guidance and links to services available in the community. The ‘Ask Us Wirral’ website is another great online resource for people who need help.

Schools

One of the most significant changes to come out of the new national lockdown is that all schools are required again to limit attendance so that only children of key workers and vulnerable students can attend in person. Individual schools will be co-ordinating how this change will be managed for their parents and pupils and each school should have in place a plan for them to be able to carry out effective home-schooling online for those pupils who need to stay at home.

In his announcement on Monday 4th January, the Prime Minister did indicate that the government would be looking at further support, including the provision of technology equipment, for children who need to be learning online until at least February half-term.

In addition, due to the new measures, the government said that summer exams would not be going ahead as planned. They will be working with Ofqual to talk about what alternative arrangements could be put in place to allow students due to take exams to progress fairly.

Early Years settings can remain open. Vulnerable children and children of key workers can continue to use registered childcare, childminders and other childcare activities. Parents are able to form a childcare bubble with one other household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is under 14. 

COVID-19 testing

Symptom-only and symptom-free testing sites are still operating in Wirral. It is important that people know which sites in the borough are carrying out which tests and it is vital that no-one with symptoms goes to get tested at one of the symptom-free sites.

The main symptoms of COVID 19 are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. People need to get a test in the first five days of having symptoms. Everyone over the age of three who is showing symptoms can be tested. Anyone you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, must stay at home until you get your result.

While there are some ‘walk-in’ appointments available at some sites, it is advised that people book an appointment on wirral.gov.uk to take the test at a testing site near you and get your result within 72 hours.

Home test kits, where people can test themselves and their family without leaving home, can also be ordered online and delivered to people’s property.

The symptoms only test sites are as follows:-

  • Hamilton Building car park, Conway Street, Birkenhead - 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm. Walk-ins are available.
  • Car park off Civic Way, near Civic Centre and Police Station, Bebington - 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm. Walk-ins are available.
  • Car park off Seaview Road, near Liscard Community Facility Complex - 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm. Walk-ins are available
  • Heswall Library - 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm. Walk-ins are available.
  • Europa Leisure Centre, Birkenhead – the mobile testing facility will be here on Wed 6 to Thu 7 Jan, 10am to 3pm. Appointments are essential.
  • Liverpool Airport, Manchester Airport or Haydock racecourse - 7 days a week. Find out more about these sites and info on how to book can be found on gov.uk

Symptom-free testing is still in place, we are encouraging those people who cannot work from home to get tested. If you can work from home, you should not need to get tested as you should be heeding the 'stay at home' lockdown message. The sites for symptom-free testing are:-

  • Floral Pavilion conference centre, New Brighton - 7 days a week, 10:30am to 6:30pm
  • Greasby Library - 7 days a week, 10:30am to 6:30pm
  • Eastham Library - 7 days a week, 10:30am to 6:30pm
  • Birkenhead Market - Monday to Saturday, 9am to 4:15pm (closed Sundays)

Libraries

All libraries are closed in the short term, including for ‘click and collect’ services, due to growing rates of transmission locally and the need to protect staff and residents. However, online services are available with thousands of e-books and a-audio that can be accessed at any time. To find out more, visit the library pages on the council’s website.

Leisure and Culture

Invigor8 leisure centres, the Marine Lake at West Kirby, tennis courts and municipal golf courses are all now closed again due to national lockdown requirements. It is the same for the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, the Priory and the Floral Pavilion theatre. All Invigor8 memberships will be frozen from January 5th 2021. There is no need to members to contact leisure services, the process will be automatic and no further direct debit payments will be taken while centres are closed.

Bin collections

Household Waste Collections are unaffected as this time, as is the ERIC (bulky waste collections) service.  Waste and recycling centres - the tips - are operated by Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority. Our understanding is that are remaining open, with some advice in place to ensure it can be as Covid-secure as possible.

Highways services

All planned and reactive highway services and streetlight repairs are unaffected at this time. This includes having crews on call 24/7 until the spring to grit roads whenever necessary.

Parks

All parks and playgrounds (excluding outdoor gyms) will remain open to the public. Visitors should stick to all the lockdown guidelines around exercise, households mixing and social distancing etc.

Regulatory services

Licensing, environmental health and trading standards officers are continuing to carry enforcement activities.

Weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and registars

Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals are allowed with strict limits on attendance and must only take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances.

Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people. Linked religious, belief-based or commemorative events, such as stone settings and ash scatterings can also continue with up to 6 people in attendance. Anyone working is not counted in these limits. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included. These should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.

The registrars’ office will be open for registering births and marriages by appointment only. To register a death, people should complete the form on the wirral.gov.uk website and a registrar will call them to register the death.