Ambulance staff Christmas party leads to Covid outbreak
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
A staff Christmas party has led to several coronavirus cases among Suffolk's ambulance workers in the last week, putting more pressure on the service.
Dozens of staff from the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) celebrated at Trinity Park outside Ipswich on Thursday December 9.
The next day managers sent a message to staff saying someone had tested positive and anyone who attended the party should take daily lateral flow tests and upload the results to the Trust’s computer system for the next week.
According to one source the numbers testing positive after the party has been increasing all week, but EEAST would not say exactly how many were off with Covid.
“It could potentially cause a massive effect on staffing levels and pressures,” the source said, who knew of around eight cases.
The ambulance service has been on its highest alert level since August with record low response times and huge pressures at A&E.
Board papers show that 10% of staff were off sick in November, including 1% with Covid.
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But that has now soared to around a third of all staff in some areas, according to one source.
The ambulance service said that on November 12 and December 3 it had issued advice to staff about going to Christmas celebrations.
An EEAST spokesman said: “Covid secure measures remain in place on all Trust premises.
"No gatherings are allowed on stations and only essential staff should be on site. Food sharing and communal food is also prohibited.”
But that did not apply to the staff Christmas party.
Parties remain allowed under current Covid restrictions, but many companies have cancelled their events.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has insisted that parties can go ahead but government departments are among many employees cancelling theirs.
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said on Wednesday that people should prioritise who they see over the festive period.
He said: “Don’t mix with people you don’t have to. I don’t think you need to be a doctor to think that. I think that’s what most people are very sensibly calculating and that seems to me a sensible approach.”
Energy minister and Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said last week: “For many small businesses, four or five staff, who are working together every day anyway, gathering to have a drink isn’t a big step up in risk.
“But some companies might normally bring hundreds of people in from around the world to a big party, and they may decide, this year, is that sensible given the pandemic and given where we are?”
More than 400 suspected cases of the latest strain of Covid-19, Omicron, have been detected in Suffolk and overall coronavirus cases have increased by 12% to 3,700 in the last week.