Rubbish bins in parts of England are going uncollected and some health workers have been urged to postpone holidays because of staff shortages associated with the surge in Covid cases.
Bin collections have been disrupted in Liverpool, Bristol, Norfolk, Sandwell, Coventry and Lancashire amid a warning that services are unsustainable due to rising infections and a high “ping” rate by the NHS test-and-trace app.
Meanwhile, managers at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS foundation trust have asked staff to postpone holidays owing to the area having one of the highest infection rates in the country.
In an internal note, staff were told that the trust was “under extreme pressure” after the number of Covid patients increased from two to 80 in a month.
It said: “If you are due to take annual leave but feel able to postpone this to help support the trust’s Covid-19 response, please talk to your line manager asap.
“It certainly feels like we are entering a very difficult period, especially after the long slog of the past year.”
South Tyneside is the UK’s current Covid hotspot, with 1,398 cases per 100,000 people. On Friday the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) warned that waiting times at accident and emergency were now exceeding 10 hours.
Potential patients have been encouraged to stock up their own medicine cabinets with what the CCG called “self-care essentials” such as painkillers and plasters to treat minor injuries and illnesses at home.
Liverpool city council said it had suspended garden waste collections for a fortnight after one in four staff reported absent for reasons related to coronavirus.
In a statement it said: “Waste services are experiencing higher than anticipated staff absence as a result of Covid-19 related cases. In the last week alone, 26 staff have had to self-isolate either because they have had a positive test or they have been contacted by track and trace. This level of absence on top of current sickness and leave means 24% of the workforce are unavailable.”
Abdul Qadir, the council’s cabinet member for neighbourhood services, said:
“Our current programme is clearly not sustainable when one in four staff are unavailable to work.
Bristol Waste has suspended garden waste collections for 10 weeks, after reporting a “significant reduction in drivers” due to a national driver shortage and the impact of the pandemic. In Sandwell, crews are due to work over the weekend to clear a backlog uncollected bins after the council’s contractor Serco, reported staff shortages earlier this week.
Breckland council, in Norfolk, said some of its bin collections were “running behind schedule due to staff sickness and a truck suffering a puncture”. Crews would work extra shifts and over the weekend to catch up, the council told residents on Twitter.
Coventry city council said it had suspended green-waste collection for at least two weeks “as a result of rising numbers of bin crews told to self-isolate by NHS test and trace”. In a statement, it added: “The increase has been due to contacts employees have had with a positive case outside of work and there is no Covid-19 outbreak in the service.”
Bin collections have also been hit by the pingdemic in Wyre council in Lancashire. The council said: “Due to Covid-19 and many staff having to self-isolate, we apologise to customers in the Thornton, Poulton and Carleton area but your blue bin will not be collected on your scheduled day.”
In Gateshead, a council-run visitor centre and tea room at Saltwell Towers has been forced to closed due to staff self-isolating.