South Tyneside Council leader appeals for patience as Omicron variant causes 'unprecedented' sickness levels and hits key services

South Tyneside’s council leader has appealed to the public for patience as the authority deals with ‘unprecedented’ sickness levels caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 12:00 pm

Some services have seen up to a quarter of staff off work at any time as the highly-infectious strain of the virus continues to spread.

Council leader Coun Tracey Dixon said the authority and many of its partners had seen rising numbers of staff affected by the variant in recent weeks: “Although, thankfully, this does not appear to cause most people to be seriously ill, it is resulting in unprecedented levels of staff absences both at the council and at our partner organisations,” she said.

"Services in some areas of the council are already stretched which is posing a new set of challenges ahead.

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"Last week our refuse crews experienced high levels of sickness which impacted on the service. I’m grateful to the staff who worked over the weekend to support affected residents.

"Please be assured that we are doing all we can to ensure that vital services are maintained in the coming weeks.”

The impact of sickness and staff being forced to self-isolate measures could have a particular impact on frontline services in which the number of specialist roles made it difficult to redeploy workers, she explained.

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Refuse collection has been one of the areas hardest hit

“Our health and care sectors are being severely impacted. We are working closely with our partner organisations to offer support where we can,” said Coun Dixon.

"This is clearly not just a South Tyneside issue but one that is being mirrored across the country. I know that any disruption can be frustrating but please rest assured that we are working tirelessly to minimise this wherever we can.

“Our focus is on ensuring that critical services, particularly those for vulnerable people, are disrupted as little as possible by these unprecedented challenges.

“We ask for your patience and understanding in what is a rapidly changing situation.”

Coun Tracey Dixon

And she urged people to ensure they were vaccinated and obey the rules: “I want to personally thank you for everything you are doing to protect yourself and others. It is important and necessary to follow the isolation guidance that applies to you.”

Visit www.gov.uk for the latest isolation advice.

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