Thousands of Oldham doors knocked on in Covid-19 response

Monday, September 28th, 2020 1:32pm

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter @CharGreenLDR

Thousands of homes were knocked on and more than 800 residents tested by Oldham's engagement and door-to-door testing teams following a second Covid-19 spike.

Throughout the first two weeks of August, cases of coronavirus began to increase again in the borough after having reduced down to single figures in July.

The government considered putting in Oldham under a ‘Leicester style’ lockdown, with hospitality and leisure venues, as well as non essential businesses closed.

However local leaders were able to successfully argue that new measures they were taking on the ground would be enough to quell the spike.

The borough was instead placed under tougher restrictions around households socialising but avoided an economic shutdown, which council leader Sean Fielding said would have been ‘catastrophic’.

Key to the local response was the roll-out of engagement teams on the ground, talking to businesses and residents in the street, and also the introduction of door to door testing in high risk areas.

At a joint scrutiny meeting, Oldham’s strategic director communities and reform, Rebekah Sutcliffe, revealed how effective that work had been.

“As of the 11 September 7,341 houses and 72 shops have been visited by the direct door to door engagement we’ve been doing in Oldham, and this has resulted in 50pc of conversations being held with people where we’ve sought to engage and 819 people have been tested as a result of that activity,” she said.

“That message has been really well received, teams on the ground have been having direct personal conversations with residents about keeping safe which is backed up by door to door testing.

“Of course that door to door engagement and testing is being done in a manner that is Covid secure and socially distanced.”

However, she said it was becoming harder to get the message about restrictions and guidelines around handwashing, mask wearing and social distancing across to residents on social media channels .

“Sentiment on social media is another indicator of identifying how communities are responding and in Oldham the situation is mixed which is in line with what other areas are experiencing,” Ms Sutcliffe told councillors.

“Some residents are choosing to disregard the messaging and a vocal minority suggesting that it’s scaremongering or not real.

“However the majority of feedback supports restrictions and public health interventions but there is clearly a widespread acknowledgement of non compliance which does lessen the impact on behaviours.

“People are tired. Fatigue and over communication generally around Covid-19 is a growing problem and we’re increasingly seeing less engagement with our messaging.”

Despite issues over testing for coronavirus, Ms Sutcliffe emphasised it was important residents seek ‘rapid testing’ if they develop symptoms of the virus.

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