Another lockdown, but infection numbers are skyrocketing.
The hospitals have been filling up with COVID patients, and we are seeing the onward march of this new COVID variant. So, the PMs broadcast on Monday night will not have been a surprise.
I have been watching the numbers carefully, locally and in other parts of the region, and the evidence is stark. On 29 December over 80,000 people tested positive for the virus and we have over 27,000 people in hospitals ill with COVID, but numbers are still increasing. The new variant is spreading rapidly and has an increased ability to transmit between people. Best read what our Director of Public Health says in her message here.
Unlike the first lockdown in March 2020, the roll out of the two+ vaccines over the coming months is our way out of the pandemic. The task is massive and nothing like it has been done before, so we must expect a few ’issues’ on the road, but we are making good progress.
One concern I have raised is that of COVID safety measures in supermarkets. Walking along the street, people now seem to be good at avoiding you – but at my last visit to a local supermarket, despite having a person at the entrance, there was no evidence of trying to maintain social distancing; importantly, no one-way system which can help this, people just darted up and down the aisles.
I’ve called on supermarkets, and all businesses that continue to remain open during this national lockdown, to step-up their Covid-19 safety measures.
Schools closures have become necessary to keep this lockdown as robust as possible, although they will remain open to children of key workers and our most vulnerable children. Our special schools and pupil referral units will also remain open. We await the outcome of discussions between the government and the exam boards regarding the cancelled exams and what alternative arrangement will be put in place.
We have looked at how we supported those shielding in the first lockdown, and have updated our website with what we can do to offer help this time around.
I was pleased to see our Chancellor responding quickly to support businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a one-off grant worth up to £9,000 and we will continue to look at ways the Council can support our local businesses through the lockdown. Businesses can also find out what other government support is available here.
For those feeing anxious and worried there is online support from the NHS, where there is a range of advice, guidance and support available. Residents can also find local advice and support on our Here2Help pages or even if necessary call our Connect service on 0121 704 8000 and speak to one of our customer service staff.
I know the forthcoming few weeks will be tough, but let us remember the light at the end of the tunnel.
For now, the message is crystal clear. Stay at home. Don’t spend time with others outside your household or your bubble. COVID spreads when people get together.
Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council