CBA Covid Safety Update – 30.03.21
Masks, masks and more masks:
As we move to more in person hearings and lockdown starts to ease, it is vital that we remember to keep doing the basics of “hands, face , space”.
Whilst the rate of vaccination has been remarkable, we must not be lulled into a false sense of security.
The vaccination only protects those who have had it from either infection or (and this is the key bit) getting seriously ill from it. It does NOT stop transmission completely and you should still act in the same ways as before. There is also emerging evidence that it may not protect against some of the new variant strains emerging.
Covid Tests while you robe:
Lateral flow testing is being piloted in some courts – Manchester, Southwark, Harrow, Reading, Winchester, Leeds and Leicester. If you are going to regularly attend one of those courts and especially if you are appearing in a trial please try to utilise them. They are an important tool in keeping us in work and trials running. A poor take up will result not only in their removal but will also mean that the potential risk of spread increases without adequate monitoring.
They are quick and give results immediatley. 1 in 3 are said to be asymptomatic i.e. not displaying symptoms so please take the test even if you feel well as you may be an unkown carrier.
Back to basics – HANDS FACE SPACE WITH VENTILATION:
No-one could have imagined a year later that restrictions would still be in place. All viruses given half a chance will mutate and that is exactly what COVID-19 has done in the UK.
In the late of Autumn of last year, a new strain was discovered – the “Kent” strain or B117 if you don’t want to upset the Kent Bar Mess. 90% of COVID in 2021 tested is now this variant.
However, this strain has been spread to the USA, Canada, and the Continent. It is much more infectious than the virus that came in wave one which makes it more deadly . This is why it is absolutely critical to get back to basics and to remain scrupulous in your dealings at court.
It is now clear that this virus is airborne which makes masks the most important piece of kit that should go everywhere with you. These should be worn at all times.
Masks on their own are not enough – good ventilation is essential. Open windows and allow air to circulate.
The advice from the US CDC and European CDC is either “double masking” ( wearing a surgical mask under a cloth one) or increasing the quality of mask you wear to FFP2. This is the advice they are giving in response to the spread of the Kent strain.
But any mask that fits well affords some protection rather than not wearing one at all.
Custody areas are now offering surgical grade masks and those should be worn in those areas. Take regular breaks if a conference over 15 minutes is unavoidable. Ask your client if they are feeling well and if they know the results of their most recent test.
Robing Rooms, dens of inequity:
Members are reminded that areas like Robing Rooms are confined spaces, usually poorly ventilated and full of hot air from loud war stories and gossip. Keep your distance and keep your mask on whenever possible. There is an informality and sense of privacy in the Robing Room which means that we sometimes may let our standards slip.
Observe social distancing and room capacities designated as part of the risk mitigation. The capacities are given for the maximum numbers in the room all together at the same time. If you are having issues with this, let us know. It should be clearly signed and alternative provisions should also be signposted.
Similalry there needs to be suffcient safe spaces available for conferences. Repeteadly we see and are hearing of rooms locked thereby limiting the already oversubscribed space at court. Please try not to hog a room for your personal use unless it is absolutely necessary e.g. dialling in for a CVP hearing elsewhere. Make sure that you inform cleaners after you finish or if you carry anti-viral/cleaning wipes, give the desk a wipe before and after you finish – basically leave it as you would wish to find it.
Given the turnover of numbers in and out of a Robing Room pay particular attention to surfaces and hands. A court can try to have the best cleaning system but given the numbers using desks and touchpoints in the Robing Room that may quickly be undermined. The most practical advice is to keep sanitizing/washing your hands every half an hour or so.
Report early and often:
If you do have the misfortune to become ill or test positive, please ensure that you tell the Court as soon as you can as that way they can communicate that information to parties who may be affected. HMCTS have rolled out a report and inform system.
Additionally, try and get your Chambers to contact those you think may have been exposed.
DO use the NHS track and trace on entering a court building for your own peace of mind and to ensure that there is accurate, independent logging of exposures.
CBA Covid Safety Group