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Friday 2 October 2020 - Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council

As the Prime Minister and his health advisors have told us, we are at a critical point in the pandemic.

We know cases are rising in our schools and currently 44% have at least one confirmed case, up from 41% earlier this week. For the majority of schools, there is little evidence of the virus being transmitted between pupils and staff within schools, so everyone observing the rules in the community will really help to reduce the disruption to education.

Our school leaders are responding quickly when there is a confirmed case and doing everything possible to keep their schools Covid-safe, and are only closing “bubbles” as a last resort. 

Our current rate of cases across Solihull (78 out of 100,000) means we will remain a government area of national intervention with tighter restrictions. These include a ban on households mixing in people’s homes and gardens (excluding bubbles), having to wear face coverings in pubs and restaurants at all times apart from when you’re eating or drinking.  But business compliance is absolutely essential to helping us reduce the transmission of Covid-19.

I’ve also said that the Council will use its new powers to deal with those flouting the rules.

Sadly, but unapologetically, we have had to take decisive action against Castle Bromwich Hall Hotel for their refusal to follow the guidelines.  This followed a post funeral ‘party’ involving in the region of 200 - 300 guests.

Ignoring the fact that there was no proper social distancing, guests weren’t asked for their details for test and trace purposes and no obvious anti-Covid measure were in place. Having 200-300 guests is not allowed. The rules against mass gatherings were introduced across the country to tackle the spread of Covid-19, as it became clear the virus quickly transmits between people in large groups.

The Hotel is now banned them from holding any events until 10 January 2021 and has been fined £10,000 by the Police.  This will also have an impact on weddings that were due to take place there.

Together we have to try and stop the virus spreading further or we risk ever tighter restrictions on our daily lives and our economy.  The messages remain, keeping your distance is the most important thing you can do alongside washing hands and wearing face coverings. These simple actions will help to reduce transmission.

All the rules and guidance are listed below at the end of the message.

The NHS Covid-19 app has been a remarkable success with over 14 million people downloading it so far.  As one of the 14 million I’d encourage everyone who hasn’t got it to go to the App Store or Google Play to download it now.  It is another way we can help stop the spread of coronavirus by supporting the testing and contact tracing programme.

And now as we continue to deal with Covid-19, the flu season is upon us and I want to encourage anyone with a serious long-term health condition, frontline health and social care workers, over 65s and pregnant women to get a free flu jab. Remember flu can be a serious illness too and it is life threatening for people who are in an at-risk group.  Each year up to 17,000 people die as a result of contracting flu.

The NHS flu vaccine is free to eligible people and will help protect from the risk of flu and its complications. This year it has been expanded to protect more people and support the NHS, as COVID-19, as we know, is also likely to be circulating within the community during the flu season.

A final health message is directed at the decreasing number of you who are still smoking - it’s ‘Stoptober’! There’s plenty of support available to help you stop smoking and all the evidence is that by getting help you’re much more likely to quit and stay quit.

You can get FREE one-to-one specialist support from Solihull Lifestyle Service by calling 0800 599 9880 or filling out an online referral form.  

Yesterday also saw the start of Black History Month.  It’s an opportunity to raise awareness and education on black history, even more relevant than usual as the injustices and systematic racism that black people face and the dialogue required to combat racism has been highlighted globally.

At this time we should acknowledge that our local Black, Asian, Minority and Ethnic (BAME) communities have been disproportionately hard-hit by Covid-19.  However, our BAME communities have responded positively to the challenges with some brilliant community leadership, with support from our Muslim and other faith leaders.

Finally, the latest stage of the Local Plan review was discussed at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting before being sent on to Full Council next week.  It has been a long process to get here and along the way it has provoked passionate debate.  This is not surprising as it will guide the development of the borough for the next decade, and beyond. It will be the basis for future planning decisions and will create a ‘blueprint’ for when and where major developments can take place, and where they shouldn’t take place.

So it is important that we have a plan that delivers a sustainable blueprint and reflects the climate change actions we must pursue in the coming years.  The plan has required taking some difficult decisions, but they are necessary in order to ensure we have the space for the jobs, homes and infrastructure we need.  Whether we like it or not, we have a number of legal obligations that we cannot escape, and we are also required to meet our housing needs.

Please keep doing the right thing for Solihull, wash your hands, cover your face and keep your distance.

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 2 October 2020

Useful links:

  1. Council Covid information
  2. Vaccinations:  For more information on who is eligible and how to get a free vaccination the NHS website has all the details here.
  3. Making your business covid-secure
  4. Solihull restrictions Frequently Asked Questions government guidelines here
  5. Winter Economy plan
  6. Further information on the app - NHS Test and Trace App
  7. What you can and can’t do
  8. Stoptober - visit the NHS website and download the free NHS Stoptober app.

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