I’m often asked So where are we on COVID? I think that it’s probably best if I give a link to the message from our Director of Public Health, Ruth Tennant, here
As the Prime Minister said last week, managing COVID this autumn/winter could be even more challenging than last year as we enter this period with much higher daily case rates than in 2020. We are though in a much better place to fight the disease due to the incredible vaccination programme and the life-saving treatments our NHS now has at its disposal.
To be honest, I am really concerned about everyone thinking this has all gone away. I know I have offended some by moving away from people getting too close, but, having had another holiday sabotaged and having seen more friends get ill with the disease, I will remain cautious and will continue to wear a face covering indoors as much as possible, to protect others and hopefully to protect myself.
There is an unseen (actually many would dispute the use of that word) COVID effect on our health services, due to the prevailing number of COVID cases in hospitals, which means an inevitable knock on effect on other operations such as hip operations and other elective surgery, cancer and other vital care. There is also a knock on effect on many sectors of the economy - on supply chains supplying food and goods, services like bin collections - as workers self-isolate because they have not been vaccinated or have only had one dose.
Hopefully most of you reading this will have had your jabs, but if not, please check the NHS England online walk-in site finder for your nearest available centre or book vaccine appointments online through the National Booking Service or by calling 119. Flu jabs are also now starting to be given, so get those too when you can.
The Council’s cultural programming team has come up with the idea of a living history, told by the community, for the community, and they are looking for researchers to collect local stories about COVID experiences.
They want to gather stories that explain the different ways people have found to make it through the last 18 months and build a big picture of just how the pandemic has affected everyone here. The aim is to build a narrative of COVID to date - the period of lockdown, the losses, the changes in lives, capturing the community positives and spirit of hope. Find out more here.
On a similar note, we are supporting the recovery of the cultural economy with a jam-packed programme of activities and events for residents and visitors to enjoy.
I hope many of you will manage to get to see the pop-up touring theatre’s ‘The Town in the Country Radio Show’ which is appearing at various locations around the borough. It’s a free, family-friendly 40-minute show that celebrates Solihull, its people, and places.
This and other planned events, are part of our work to support the recovery of our cultural economy which has been hugely impacted by COVID. More events will take place in locations across the whole borough – details will be available on the Visit Solihull website.
And as we head into the colder months, I would like to remind you that if you are struggling to make ends meet due to the pandemic there are COVID local support grants available, to help you and your household ‘get ready for winter’ with items such as essential food, toiletries, winter clothes and heaters. The deadline to apply is 30 September 2021. To check your eligibility and for more information please visit Age UK Solihull’s website.
The country is gearing up to host the COP26 UN Climate Change Summit in November and I am very hopeful that this will encourage everyone to think about Climate Change and what part everyone can play. As was referred to in our own cross-party Solihull Climate Change Declaration, the issues of carbon emissions, pollution and biodiversity are all key.
But there is another issue which I spoke about at a meeting of the West Midlands Combined Authority on Friday, when I presented a paper under the rather elegant title of “Circular Economy”. This is not just about recycling, but about the widespread repair, re-use and regeneration of resources and materials.
Humanity is extracting something like 90 trillion tons of natural resources out of the planet each year, and we need to investigate viable means of re-using the materials we take out, although this will not be easy. It is good to see that single use plastic bottles are less in evidence and that the Council has taken action on this, but we all still have much further to go even on this front.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council