SIMPLE face coverings made in factories in Leicester are to be sent out to thousands of people across the city from next week.
The city council has ordered washable face coverings for people who have been shielding from the coronavirus since the end of March, and who have now been advised to continue to shield until at least Monday 17 August.
All 15,000 people in Leicester who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable will receive a packet of two face coverings in the post – and the council hopes that the gesture will be seen as a reminder of the warm welcome that will be waiting for them, when the advice from the Government changes and they feel ready to return to the city and its amenities.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “After spending five months at home, safely shielding from the coronavirus, it’s going to be challenging for those most at risk from the virus to return to the way of life they enjoyed before lockdown.
“People may feel that the world has moved on without them – and they’re worried about being part of it again.
“And while we’re all feeling like that to some extent, it’s clearly much more significant for those who have been shielding at home.
“By providing everyone who’s been shielding with two simple washable face coverings, we hope we’ll help them get ready to take those first careful steps back into our city and its neighbourhoods, when the Government guidance changes.
“These face coverings have been made by businesses in Leicester, so I’m very pleased that this initiative means we’ve been able to support some brilliant local companies, while we support those who may need a helping hand to start enjoying life in the city once again.”
Face coverings are already mandatory on public transport, inside transport hubs, in shops, in hospitals, in GP’s surgeries and in many other indoor settings.
And while it’s important to remember that not everyone can wear a face covering, and many exemptions apply, those who can wear one are advised to cover their face in any enclosed public space where social distancing may be difficult and where closer contact with others is likely.
Face coverings are not considered to be personal protection equipment – instead, they are largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, from transmission of the virus.
Leicester’s face coverings will be made from a black knitted fabric and will bear the words #LeicesterTogether – the hashtag that’s being used to unite the city during the coronavirus pandemic.
Four local businesses have been involved in manufacturing and assembling the city council’s face coverings: ARC Fabrics on Morris Road, Print A Print on Gwendolen Road, Cut in it Fine on Saffron Road, and Micro-Fresh on Thurmaston Boulevard.
Leicester-based Micro-Fresh has developed the anti-viral coating that will be applied to the face coverings before they’re sent out.
Its founder and CEO, Byron Dixon OBE, said: “Micro-Fresh has been tested against viruses, giving our coating anti-viral properties which have proved to be durable, lasting for up to 50 washes.”
Zunaid Dassu, sales director at ARC Fabrics, said: “We are pleased to be able to showcase just how flexible and competitive Leicester manufacturing can be.
“From our initial conversations with the council we will have managed to manufacture and deliver over 60,000 face coverings in just over a week. This includes knitting and dyeing the fabric, printing the council logo and treating it with Micro-Fresh’s coating. It has been a pleasure working with Cut in it Fine, Print A Print and Micro-Fresh.”
The face coverings are due to be dispatched to homes around the city from next Monday (17 August).
A total of 60,000 face coverings have been ordered so that they can also be allocated to city council frontline staff and shared with local voluntary sector organisations.
The cost of manufacturing the 60,000 face coverings, together with postage and packaging, will be around £120,000 – with the costs being met by funding allocated to the council by the Government to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
The face coverings are part of a package of support that the city council is providing to make sure that no one in Leicester goes hungry, or goes without their medicines, because they’re shielding.
City council staff are also providing help with picking up prescriptions or securing online slots for supermarket deliveries. And the council is now arranging weekly home deliveries of food and essential items for those who are shielding – a service it took over from the Government on 1 August, when the national food box scheme was discontinued.
Director of public health Ivan Browne said: “The Government is advising clinically extremely vulnerable people in Leicester to continue to shield – and that means staying at home as much as possible.
“But spending time outdoors, and going for a walk with members of your household, or safely meeting one person from another household, can be a boost to your sense of wellbeing.
“The important thing is to only do what you feel comfortable doing, making sure that you take extra care when you do leave the house.
“And remember: support is available, if you need it. If you’re feeling isolated and lonely at home, get in touch – and if you’re worried about getting hold of food and supplies, let us know. Our support will be there for anyone who needs it, until the Government changes its advice for those medically shielding in our area.”
Anyone who is shielding and who needs help from the city council should get in touch via its dedicated crisis support email address: C19support@leicester.gov.uk
Help is also available from the NHS Volunteer Responders on 0808 196 3646 (8am-8pm).
Advice to people in Leicester who are shielding remains as follows:
- stay at home as much as possible and keep visits outside to a minimum
- if you wish to spend time outdoors, you can do this with members of your own household
- if you live alone, you may choose to spend time outdoors with one person from another household (ideally the same person each time)
- you should maintain social distancing (2 metres) and avoiding gatherings of any size
- you are advised not to be part of a support bubble with another household.
More information for people in Leicester who are shielding is available on the council's coronavirus advice webpages.
The Government is due to review the restrictions in place in Leicester by Friday (14 August).
Image courtesy of ARC Fabrics