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Friday 13 November 2020 - Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council

The light at the end of the tunnel

The announcement of a COVID vaccine is incredibly welcome as we enter our second full week of this lockdown.  It’s early days and I understand the need for caution.  But the fact that scientists have proved it is possible to make a working vaccine is cause for celebration, at one point no-one was completely certain it could be done.

This particular vaccine is one of many being developed, but the news from the trials is exactly what we all wanted to hear and can allow us to imagine a way out of this pandemic. Of course, the reality is we haven’t got it now. A lot of work will have to be done to plan and deliver mass vaccination, in an operation over many, many months that some have described as overshadowing evacuation in WW2. Nevertheless, a lot of effort is now being applied in the country to tackle all this work.

Sadly, Tuesday’s COVID figures of 532 deaths and 1,366 new hospital admissions explains why we are now in a lockdown, why we cannot meet socially with anyone indoors unless they’re in our support bubble and why we must keep up with our hand washing, social distancing and covering our faces when required.

In Solihull we have seen our infection rate rise to 270 per 100,000 population, from 231 last week, with a particular rise in the 60+ age range.  As yet, we are not seeing the effect of lockdown, but there is always a lag between action and results

Because of the lockdown rules, we temporarily paused our ‘Support Local’ #supportlocal campaign.  The campaign has been restarted, as we are now working with local retailers and businesses to provide a platform for them to tell local people what they can still offer under the current restrictions.

I know the impact of lockdown is severe for many people and business, but we need to see lockdown succeed and the infection rate come down. At the moment it is still going up. There are always issues of loopholes and I just hope attempts are not made to exploit these:  as has been said, it is not a matter of what we can do, but what we should do to try and reduce transmission.  It really is essential that everyone focuses on what can be done to avoid infection being spread.

The police have made it clear that enforcement of the current COVID rules will continue to be their priority.  

In last week’s message I talked about the new national guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV).  We have stepped up our support for those people and our Contact Centre is busy responding to calls and making contact with those who are requesting additional support from the Council.

Where possible, people are being signposted to online shopping and community pharmacies for food and medication deliveries. People who have received a CEV letter can continue to register for support here or by contacting the Council directly on 0121 704 8704 or by email at shielding@solihull.gov.uk

Diwali, as with many other festivals this year, should now be celebrated while observing the current national restrictions to make sure it’s safe for everyone. This means activities should only be at home and with your own household or support bubble.

During the first lockdown you may remember that our Love Solihull team ran a Tree of Hope campaign. Children were asked to create, paint or draw a ‘Tree of Hope’ as a practical way to look to the future during these difficult times.  In return, they would receive a free tree whip (young single stemmed tree plant). 

We had a great response to the campaign and this week we have delivered 180 ornamental cherry blossom tree whips across the borough.  As the trees grow and flower I am sure they will bring a smile to the faces of those families.  We know the importance of trees and woodland to our physical and mental health as well as to the environment. 

In addition to the Trees of Hope, we have been delivering 18 larger cherry trees, to a number of parish councils.  This is part of the Planting our Future campaign, our commitment to planting 250,000 trees in Solihull over the next 10 years.  I heard that Chadwick End Parish Council planted their tree on Remembrance Sunday as a lasting and lovely tribute to loved ones lost.

You can find more information about Planting our Future on the Love Solihull website.

Keep well, keep positive and continue doing the right thing for Solihull. 

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 13 November 2020 

Useful links:

  1. Government guidance
  2. Council Covid information
  3. Flu vaccinations:  For more information on who is eligible to get a free Flu vaccination the NHS website has all the details here.
  4. Self-isolation fund – more info here
  5. Business support – more info here

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