We knew that as we stepped out of lockdown we were likely to face challenges with new outbreaks of COVID and spikes of community transmission.
I am sure many of you will have seen our Director of Public Health’s message from Tuesday with the news that after weeks of falling infection rates across Solihull, communities in the north of the borough are now experiencing an increase.
I cannot say how disheartened I am after seeing our infection numbers drop ahead of the region, to suddenly see us near the top of a leader board I really do not want to be on.
The outbreak in Smith’s Wood and Kingshurst is not the only cause for concern. We are seeing small increases in other areas too.
A big thank you to the parents and staff at Smith’s Wood Primary Academy where families who live in the same household have taken a tests in order to reduce the spread of the virus. The school had to close, but the leadership team have, by all accounts, done a fantastic job of keeping their pupils and parents both informed and safe.
I do feel so sorry for those school pupils who once again have to home learn after only a week of enjoying being back at school with their teachers and friends. But following the school’s efforts they will be returning soon.
Please help by ensuring that you keep a safe distance when you are dropping off or collecting children from all our schools. I know it’s tempting to want to catch up with friends you may not have seen for a long time, but these new variants transmit so rapidly we have to close down all opportunities for it to spread.
If you are out and about you should take these regular tests to make sure you aren’t unintentionally passing on the virus. No one wants to be a spreader. Get tested and you can keep your family and friends safe. There is financial support if you test positive and have to self-isolate and remember over 60% of those claiming the support get it!
However, the incredible vaccine rollout is still working at an incredible pace and will help us our efforts to control the virus. While we cannot categorically claim an effect just yet, the good news is that the rates of infection in the over 60s has fallen by 17% to 32.9 per 100,000 people in contrast to the 10% rise in the wider population at 67.9 cases per 100,000 people.
Sorry, to have to say it but being vaccinated is not an excuse to forget about hands, face, space keeping your distance as if the person next to you has a horrible disease – please look at the accompanying government advert which just says it all.
You can still get COVID, and you might even spread it, so carry on doing the right things.
At the Council we are still planning for the next steps along the roadmap. For instance, the Library Services ‘Click and Collect’ service will start up again from Monday 29 March.
Residents are being asked to return any books they still have to their local branch from this date, so we can quarantine them and get them back on the shelves for other customers. We’re having an amnesty on fines, so don’t worry about how long you’ve had the book, or books, on loan, please just return them to a drop off trolley at any library branch. Opening hours vary between branches, so do check here first for opening dates and times.
Also, with the help of Table Tennis England, we’ll be bringing ‘ping pong to the people’ this spring following a joint project to install all weather table tennis tables in some of our parks.
This is a fun initiative, but we hope it will encourage people to get moving and take up a new sport. I’m pleased as it is another string to our parks’ bows, and by offering new initiatives like this we can keep you entertained and keep our parks popular with as wide a cross section of Solihull residents as possible.
In other news I’m really pleased that through our UK Central programme we have secured nearly £3 million from the West Midlands Combined Authority Land Fund for enabling works at the Simon Digby site in North Solihull. This brownfield site has been earmarked for development in Solihull’s Local Plan since 2013 and has the potential to provide around 175 much needed new homes to the area, with 40% of them being affordable housing in line with our planning policy.
Finally, this is your last reminder, you can still register to join our final Net Zero Action Plan webinar this evening from 6pm -7:30pm. We really want to know what you think about the Green Paper, so do sign up and join in the conversation.
Keep doing the right thing for you, your family, friends and Solihull.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council