COVID continues to occupy the headlines in 2022. Cases are rapidly increasing in Solihull and these are due to the Omicron variant. Despite what some may say, Omicron is not ‘a cold’. The reason those infected with Omicron are largely having less severe symptoms is because they are fully vaccinated and boosted, and I am afraid intensive care beds are now full of the unvaccinated and un-boosted.
I hope that anyone reading this will (surely please?!) have already been vaccinated, but if not, there are plenty of vaccination slots available to be booked or you can visit one of the walk-in clinics.
As part of a more measured response to living with COVID, I was pleased to hear that the self-isolation rules have changed to five days, following two negative tests on day five and day six. This will help the NHS, care providers and every other business to better manage COVID absences, so they can keep going through this Omicron wave.
How good will it be to move on from this subject, but we are keen that every lesson can be learned, relevant for other emergencies. The full story around the pandemic has yet to be written, but at Solihull’s Cabinet meeting last week we received and read with interest a joint report from our two Local Resilience Forums (Warwickshire & West Midlands Conurbation) on the collective response to Covid-19.
What we heard, if we did not already know it, is that across the region there was strong and positive partnership working characterised by commitment and engagement with “high levels of professionalism, flexibility and a willingness to help and support, with the spirit of getting things done ever present”.
I can only pay tribute to the Council staff, our NHS and care sector and the community organisations and businesses who rose to the challenge over the past two years. Teams continued to deliver the services residents needed and expect in the face of immensely difficult circumstances, often going out to help and deal with situations and decisions when so many of us were locked down – remember, this was at a time before vaccinations had been rolled out and shown to be so successful.
2022 promises much for us to enjoy. There is the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and an extended bank holiday in June to look forward to. And in Solihull we have the Commonwealth Games as well as hosting six events in the borough and welcoming athletes and tourists, there’s also a chance to honour local people by nominating them to be Batonbearers for the Queen’s Baton Relay in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games.
I hope as we move forward from the Covid crisis, we can concentrate on all the other issues we face as a society and as a borough, protecting the environment in response to the challenges it faces, doing our utmost for the wellbeing and health of our residents, communities and our young people, tackling disadvantage and inequality, building on our track record of creating jobs, homes and opportunities for people in the borough, planning for better local centres. So much to do.
We actually have the technologies and engineering expertise in the region to be major players in developing solutions for the climate change emergency. We will press ahead to become a more sustainable society here, hopefully develop and hone the necessary skills to become leaders, showing the world what is possible and how to do it.
Finally, can I wish you all a belated Happy New Year and hope that together we all have a fulfilling 2022. Health, Happiness, Harmony, and Hope for a successful post-pandemic future.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council