Advice on Covid-19 (“coronavirus”)

Coronavirus: Advice for Bargee Travellers
This Update 26-3-2020

We have put together a summary of the advice on COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) that is most relevant to Bargee Travellers.

If you have symptoms that you cannot cope with, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, call NHS 111 or if it’s an emergency call 999 and ask for an ambulance. DO NOT GO TO YOUR GP. Use the NHS 111 Covid-19 screening website here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19
(note that we have heard of long delays in getting through to 111 on a voice call (eg 70 mins) and clinician call-back times (eg 12 hours)).

If you are on CRT waterways, CRT has now confirmed that the 14-day movement requirement has been suspended and that boat sightings are also suspended. It is not clear whether the 20-mile movement “rule” is also suspended or whether any other enforcement action will be carried out during this difficult time.

A CRT staff member told the NBTA that the waterways were a relatively low-risk environment as there were very few large gatherings. Boaters who need to self-isolate can stay longer than 14 days in any one place. It has also published signs (and encourages boaters to print out and put up) that instruct walkers on the towpath to keep away from moored boats.

If you have lost work or been laid off and are having problems paying for your boat licence, CRT has informed boaters that it will respond with as much flexibility as possible but that it has no plans to provide licence payment holidays.

If you are not on CRT waterways and you need assistance because you are self-isolating or you are moderately ill, you can contact the NBTA and we will do our best to put you in touch with local sources of support such as the Waterways Chaplaincy (see below).

More detailed information relating to each navigation authority is given below.

If you are cruising in rural or isolated areas, make sure that you know your location, eg the nearest lock or bridge number and where you are in relation to it, or the name of the road you are moored by, in case you start to feel unwell. If there is a medical emergency and you need an ambulance to come to you the Emergency Services will be able to identify your location more easily if you have a postcode (they are not good with 12-digit grid references) or a what3words phrase.

You can identify your exact location using a what3words phrase. You can do this using the what3words smartphone app:
https://what3words.com/products/what3words-app/
Alternatively if you locate your position on http://www.streetmap.co.uk
you can then get the what3words phrase using the “click here to convert coordinates” link just under the map. Google Maps does not provide a what3words phrase but can accept one.

We also suggest that you wash your hands frequently with soap and hot (if possible) water or use alcohol based hand sanitiser when using locks and bridges, and before and after using water taps, rubbish bins and sewage disposal facilities. It is also wise to wash hands with anti-bacterial soap after handling anything that has come into contact with canal or river water and before you eat or drink.

Friends, Families and Travellers has produced extensive guidance for boaters and other travelling communities on Covid-19. See: https://www.gypsy-traveller.org/advice-section/guidance-for-gypsy-traveller-and-liveaboard-boater-communities-on-coronavirus

Julian House Gypsy, Traveller, Boater and Roma Community Support Service operates in Bath and North East Somerset ( BaNES) and Wiltshire (for boaters on the western K&A). JH is is working on an action plan to ensure that everyone on the canal is safe and cared for. You can contact JH if you are self-isolating or are concerned about anyone else. JH is in the process of setting up a network of community coordinators along the canal that can be replicated in other areas. It is looking for healthy volunteers (ideally with an existing clear CRB check) to coordinate and distribute essentials to those affected in the priority self-isolating groups. There will be more information on https://www.facebook.com/GRTBSupport

There are many (generic, not-boater-specific) self-help groups popping up in other areas. These are being signposted by local political parties (Labour Party and Green Party in particular) and local authorities. The Foodbanks are coordinated through the Trussel Trust. See: https://www.trusselltrust.org/

Latest Government advice (and direction supported by powers to impose unlimited fines for businesses and smaller fines for individuals) from 23rd March 2020 here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
is that:

  • you must stay at home apart from essential travel
  • you must only go outside for food, health reasons
  • you must only go outside for work where this absolutely cannot be done from home – otherwise work from home or don’t work; key workers are excluded from this
  • you must stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people when outside
  • you must not be engaged in any gathering of more than two people in public
  • you must wash your hands as soon as you get home
  • you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms
  • if you live in the UK and are currently abroad you are strongly advised to return now
  • all non-essential shops (excluding food shops and take-away services) and community spaces must close with immediate effect; failure to comply can lead to unlimited fines.

These provisions will be reviewed on approximately 13-4-2020. (note that the infection rate is now rising rapidly and on 13-4-2020 or thereabouts it is likely that further measures will be introduced rather than restrictions relaxed).

Previous advice from 16-3-2020 stated:

  • people aged 70 and over
  • pregnant women
  • those with other health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease
  • those on medication to suppress their immune system

should self-isolate for 12 weeks and probably several weeks longer (note that, per the health study of boaters by Prof Margaret Greenfield, boaters are more likely to have TB than members of the established community. TB is an extreme form of “other health conditions ”).

The infection rate is projected to reach its peak in week commencing 6-4-2020. A new field hospital is being prepared at ExCel in central London for 4,000 critical care beds, in 2 wards. This is planned to be operational by the beginning of May 2020. Current thinking of the Chief Medical Officer is that the NHS is “likely to cope” with the patient load during this period.

The NHS online advice about Covid-19 is here https://111.nhs.uk/service/covid-19
The NHS advises people who are self-isolating, mildly or moderately ill to NOT call 111 and instead use this self-triage screening page. Users with no internet access obviously have to call 111 if they need help. Also to protect yourself and others, do NOT go to a GP, pharmacy or hospital. NHS advice about self-isolating is here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/

If you have symptoms that you cannot cope with, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, that is the time to call NHS 111 or if it’s an emergency call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

NBTA London has a Facebook Group thread running here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/73933281285/

Boaters may also be able to get help, including in some cases financial help, from the Waterways Chaplaincy,
see https://www.waterwayschaplaincy.org.uk/

Advice given by GOV.UK and the NHS

The NHS Covid-19 page is here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19

The Department for Health and Social Care Twitter feed is here: https://twitter.com/DHSCgovuk

The gov.uk web page for Covid-19 is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

Advice given by CRT

CRT has stated that if boaters who are self isolating or moderately ill with Covid-19 have no support network of their own, its local Boat Licence Support staff may be able to offer help to get shopping, fill up with water or empty toilets.
See https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/buy-your-boat-licence/boat-licence-customer-support-team/contact-your-local-officer or call CRT on 0303 040 4040.

CRT has stated that it has contingency plans for staffing including its call centres and licensing department, and has published some Frequently Asked Questions about Coronavirus here: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/safety-on-our-waterways/coronavirus/coronavirus-faqs/

CRT’s statement about boating and Covid-19 is here: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/safety-on-our-waterways/coronavirus
The primary message is “don’t navigate unless you have to”.

Dave Mendes da Costa is an NBTA activist and one of the new boater representatives on the CRT Council. Feedback into CRT is being marshalled through Dave and he has asked for NBTA members’ thoughts and concerns, in particular:

1. Anything which isn’t on the FAQ from CRT which should be;

2. Examples of good practice (eg ways of supporting self-isolating boaters) which CRT can help with or could promote to other waterways;

3. Any issues which aren’t being talked about but which concern individual boaters.”

Dave has asked members to contact him to make suggestions: davecrtcouncil@gmail.com

Other Navigation Authorities Advice

The Port of London Authority (PLA) has given some detailed advice, reflecting the importance of London as an international port. See: http://www.pla.co.uk/About-Us/Port-of-London-operational-focus-COVID-19-response

Cambridge City Council, which runs the Residential Mooring Licence Scheme on the River Cam, has published generic guidance on coronavirus here: www.cambridge.gov.uk/updates/2020/03/16/coronavirus-useful-links-and-guidance

Most other Local Authorities have also published generic advice.

The Broads Authority has issued some guidance on Covid-19 and an important flash appears on every page.
See: https://www.broads-authority.gov.uk/news/coronavirus-covid-19

Bristol City Council, that runs the Floating Harbour, has not issued any specific advice for boaters but the “Useful Contacts” page links to generic advice given by Bristol City Council. See https://www.bristol.gov.uk/streets-travel/bristol-harbour-useful-contacts

The Cam Conservancy has issued guidance to boaters, has closed its offices to callers and is only dealing with the public by phone and email. However the guidance is not in accordance with the national directive of 23-3-2020. See https://www.camconservancy.org/

The Environment Agency (River Thames) has now issued some guidance by e-mail which the NBTA has reproduced here: http://www.bargee-traveller.org.uk/covid-19-advice-from-the-environment-agency-ea-lifts-mooring-restrictions/ and here: http://www.bargee-traveller.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020-03-25_EA_External_comms.pdf
The centralised call centre on (03708) 506 506 has gone off-line with a message stating “Due to unprecedented circumstances we are unable to answer calls, please call back later”. It has issued an e-mail broadcast to licence-holders only but has not posted this its web site.

The Avon Navigation Trust has issued guidance in relation to Covid-19 in an
E-mail broadcast and on its website here: https://www.avonnavigationtrust.org/covid-19-information/

The Middle Level Commissioners has issued guidance in relation to Covid-19 here: https://middlelevel.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/CORONAVIRUS-COVID.pdf

Peel Holdings (that operates the Bridgewater Canal and the Manchester Ship canal) has issued no specific guidance or mention of Covid-19 for boaters. See https://www.peel.co.uk/about/#csr-and-sustainability. Peel Holdings can be reached by e-mail at legal@peel.co.uk

Other Navigations can be found through the Association of Inland Waterways Navigation Authorities (AINA) here: https://www.aina.org.uk/ The AINA website is devoid of advice but lists all the AINA members with individual points of contact.

Can I Help?

A number of community support groups are springing up and boaters may wish to contribute. See above about “self-help groups”.

The NHS is urgently seeking volunteers. See https://www.goodsamapp.org/NHS
(note that at 1700 on 25-3-2020 the target of 250,000 volunteers had been reached but the site is still live and accepting new offers of help).

v1.4 updated 26-03-2020 1700Z