With so much talk about coronavirus, it’s hard to know which sources of information you should keep up to date with.

This is a rapidly changing situation, but we will keep you up-to-date with any new advice and guidance when it becomes available. You can also sign up for alerts to get updates from the government on coronavirus.

New guidance on social distancing

Everyone should begin to minimise social interaction with other people in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19. This is known as social distancing.

This includes:

  • Avoiding large gatherings and smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs
  • Avoiding non-essential use of public transport and varying your travel times to avoid rush hour
  • Working from home where possible
  • Avoiding gatherings with friends and family
  • Using telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services

Everyone should be doing these things, but the government advises that anyone who has an increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) should be strict in following these measures.

Read the full guidance on social distancing including the list of increased risk groups.

Updated stay at home guidance

The guidance on what you should do if you have symptoms of coronavirus has been updated.

If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.

If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

If you have symptoms, or someone in your household does, do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. You do not need to call NHS 111 to tell them you are staying at home. If you feel you can’t cope with your symptoms at home, your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.

The current position on schools

We know that many people have questions about why the government’s response to coronavirus doesn’t include closing schools at this stage.

This measure may be introduced in the coming weeks or months, but the government has explained that it is important that it happens at the right time. This is to ensure that any measures are sustainable, to limit the impact of childcare arrangements on parents (particularly NHS and other frontline workers), and to enable schools to have time to look at alternative methods of teaching (e.g. using technology).

Please keep up to date with the latest advice and guidance at gov.uk/coronavirus, including specific guidance for educational settings.

There is a dedicated helpline number for educational settings for anything not covered by the guidance – please call 0800 046 8687.

Waste collection advice if you have symptoms of coronavirus

Personal waste (such as used tissues) and disposable cleaning cloths can be stored securely within disposable rubbish bags. These bags should be placed into another bag, tied securely and kept separate from other waste. This should be put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in your usual external household rubbish bin or authorised blue sack.

Recycling, food, glass and garden waste can be disposed of as normal.

Co-ordinated community response

Lots of people have been organising themselves in local communities across Dorset. It’s really great to see people rallying around to look out for older neighbours or those with health conditions. We at Dorset Council are working on some guidance to help with this activity which we hope to publish on our website tomorrow (18 March).

We are also working closely with voluntary sector organisations to ensure essential services provided by them can continue. We will provide further information soon about volunteering opportunities and support for charitable organisations who need extra volunteering support. Please keep checking our website.

Keeping essential council services running

Dorset Council’s role is to keep essential public services running and to continue to support vulnerable people in our community. We are working hard to ensure that services such as waste collection, and adult and children’s social care continue to be provided, despite the challenges of the coronavirus situation.

This may mean that some non-essential council services may be scaled back or even stopped altogether for a period of time. We will share information on any changes to services on our website.

Support for businesses and self-employed workers

We realise that this is a challenging time for many people who are self-employed and for some local businesses. Some businesses are already being badly affected by the coronavirus situation, such as pubs, restaurants, hotels, etc.

At Dorset Council, we are awaiting guidance from government which is expected later this week about how we will be able to provide support during this difficult time.

In addition, the chancellor recently announced as part of the 2020 Budget that business rates will be suspended over the coming year for many retail, leisure and hospitality firms. Companies with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for the tax holiday. This includes shops, cinemas, restaurants and hotels, and is part of a package of “extraordinary” measures to support the UK economy in the face of disruption from the coronavirus outbreak.

Dorset Council is sending out revised business rate bills in line with this.

Support for vulnerable people and households

The government has announced a new £500 million Hardship Fund so local authorities can support economically vulnerable people and households. The government expects most of this funding to be used to provide more council tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through similar measures.

At this stage we haven’t been told how much funding will be available to Dorset Council, but as soon as we are, we will work as quickly as we can to establish how we can use it to help our most vulnerable residents.

Looking after your health and wellbeing

It’s important to know what’s going on, but if you’re finding that the constant stream of news updates and social media is causing you to become worried or stressed, you could limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching things which aren’t making you feel better.

Perhaps decide on a specific time to check in with the news, or stick to the trusted sources of information to find out what you need to know. You can find information and tips on looking after your mental health on Every Mind Matters.

LiveWell Dorset have just the thing to support your wellbeing at this time: The Five Ways Challenge. Over the following weeks, Five Ways Challenge participants will join together virtually to take care of our wellbeing. Join the Five Ways Challenge.

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