I have been contacted by a number of my constituents in recent days in respect of the number of Coronavirus cases in Corby - I can entirely understand and appreciate the anxiety and worry that this situation is causing locally, particularly with the significantly increased rates we have seen over recent days.
Clearly, it is imperative that all workplaces that are open act in accordance with the ‘COVID Secure’ guidelines, regardless of whether they are deemed essential or non-essential businesses. Of course, if they cannot operate safely and within those guidelines, they should be closed. You can also find the official list of businesses which must currently be closed under the ‘lockdown’ here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home#businesses-and-venues.
As you might be aware, I have written formally to the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, and to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, about local concerns relating to workplace transmission within manufacturing businesses in particular. Locally, public health leaders, who I have also formally raised these concerns with, believe that the vast majority of transmission is as a result of household interaction at this stage, but given the concern, I am keen that further investigation takes place to identify whether there is a correlation or trend developing, so that further infection control steps can be considered locally, should that be felt to be required, utilising the existing package of Government support to assist any affected businesses. I said so on BBC television over the weekend too.
However, as you will appreciate, it is for the local authorities to investigate complaints regarding allegations of non-compliance, but they also have an important role to play in working closely with businesses to educate, inform and help make improvements to working practices where required. Formal enforcement action should always be a last resort. As such, I have been corresponding with the COVID-19 Response Team for Northamptonshire, who I am sure will investigate these concerns accordingly.
Given that I was already actively raising this, you can be assured that I will continue to monitor the situation closely, but it is right that the statutory authorities are allowed the space they need to investigate and act as they see appropriate, in accordance with the national regulations. I also have further official discussions later today, involving Government officials and public health representatives locally, to discuss this all further following on from my initial conversation with the Health Secretary raising the very issues you mention, which has no doubt subsequently prompted this further welcome dialogue.