I would like to start by reflecting on Solihull’s response to the repatriation of people from Afghanistan through Birmingham Airport, which quite frankly has been truly amazing. On my visits to the airport it was heartening to see how quickly and efficiently arrangements had been put in place and the relief that was evident amongst the refugees, around one in five of whom have been babies or young children.
My heartfelt thanks to the people of Solihull and all our partners for their willingness to help in this situation. I must mention all the organisations that have worked around the clock to offer assistance, whether that was providing direct support to refugees at the airport or offsite with essential supplies and co-ordinating donations. These include Age UK Solihull, British Red Cross, Citizens Advice Solihull Bureau, Entraide, Islamic Relief, Langar Aid, Refugee Action, Renewal Christian Centre, Solihull Muslim Association, St Andrew’s Church Baby Bank, St John’s Ambulance, plus our Test & Trace volunteers.
A number of people continue to ask me about how they can help provide support or do their bit. Following the incredible response from local residents and groups, the collection points have been inundated with supplies. As a result we kindly now ask people to hold onto items for the moment. People are still welcome to make monetary donations should they wish and there is information on our website about how you can best do this: https://www.solihull.gov.uk/news/support-people-being-repatriated-afghanistan
Our schools and colleges and their pupils and students are embarking on a new academic year and I’m sure many of you will be thinking about the impact this may have on our COVID rates. It is hugely important that our children and young people get back into education with the confidence that the year ahead will hopefully be less disruptive than the last two years. Council officers are working closely with school and college leaders to ensure they have the support in place to ensure their environments are COVID safe and that they are geared up to carry out testing on site.
Again as I mentioned last week, 16 and 17 year olds can now get their COVID vaccines, so please do encourage any young people of this age to take up the opportunity. The great news is that they can now do this at the NHS vaccine van which will be in Mell Square again today (Friday 3 September) and tomorrow, Saturday 4 September, from 9am - 5.30pm.
Vaccinations will also be available from one of more than 800 GP-led local vaccination sites and NHS England has launched a new online walk-in site finder to help you find the nearest available centre. You can always find the latest local vaccination information here.
Case rates within the borough are still high and we are seeing an increase across the age groups, so it’s clear that the virus is still very much amongst us. Regardless of your vaccination status or if you’ve previously had COVID, you can still get it, so it’s really important we continue doing the right thing and take regular tests to help prevent the spread.
We’ve seen in the media about people attending festivals and the huge impact this has had in rates rapidly increasing, so please, if you are planning on attending a festival or other event, get a test before you go and when you return. And if you are positive then do the right thing and self-isolate.
Solihull Carnival takes place in Tudor Grange Park this weekend followed by Solihull Summer Fest the week after. While it’s great that these social events are taking place again, we just need to make sure we are sensible and continue to remember hands, face, space, fresh air. If you should get a positive rapid test result it’s vital to get a confirmatory PCR test within 48 hours by calling 119 or booking via the national PCR test booking system.
During the pandemic, many of us found peace and quiet through our daily walks and a renewed appreciation of nature and its beauty. We are creating a new woodland in remembrance of those affected by COVID-19 – Hope Coppice – and I am delighted to see that things are progressing well. Stepping beams, balance logs and boardwalks are among the works starting next week, please find out more here.
I’m sure that many of you found yourselves reading more during the pandemic too and perhaps discovered new authors or genres of books. Libraries provide many benefits in local communities and we are proud to have so many within the borough. I’m pleased to say that during September we will be gradually increasing the opening hours of libraries starting with The Core, so that people have more opportunity to access them. Read more here.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council