As we approach the festive season, we have a very simple message for everyone in the West Midlands: The single biggest thing we can all do for our families and friends this Christmas is keep them safe.
This has been a tough year and the people of this region have sacrificed so much. We're all missing family and friends and it's understandable that people are desperate for some form of normality as the Covid restrictions are eased for five days from 23 to 27 December.
But the pandemic doesn't have a calendar. It doesn't respect Christmas, just as it didn't respect Eid, Diwali or Hanukkah. This awful virus is as dangerous now as it was back in March and tragically it continues to kill.
Covid also continues to pile pressure on the NHS and the very last thing our hospitals need is a post-Christmas third wave.
- That's why we are urging the people of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton to think carefully whether a Christmas extended bubble is a good idea.
- We must all think: ‘should I do it?’ not ‘can I do it?’
- If you are planning to see family or friends over the five day period, don't be the one to give everyone Covid.
- Be extremely careful about who you mix with in the run-up to Christmas. If you catch Covid now, you could pass it to your family over the Christmas period.
- Be honest about what you are doing, who you are seeing and how much you are out and about.
- Act like the person next to you has COVID. People may be asymptomatic or may not be following self-isolation rules.
- And please remember that testing continues to be vitally important.
- If you have any symptoms, you must get tested straight away and do not go out before you get tested or while awaiting test results. You must self-isolate for the full 10 days if you have COVID or are a close contact - even if that means you will be self-isolating over Christmas.
The roll-out of the vaccination offers us all hope for a happier 2021, but it remains very clear that we will collectively pay the price in the New Year if people have too much social contact over Christmas.
This is not an attempt to ruin Christmas and we absolutely understand the need for people to celebrate together. But losing a friend or loved one in the New Year would be a terrible price to pay.
So please think long and hard about your Christmas plans and do everything you can to keep people safe.
Cllr Ian Ward - Leader of Birmingham City Council
Cllr George Duggins - Leader of Coventry City Council
Cllr Patrick Harley - Leader of Dudley Council
Cllr Maria Crompton - Interim Leader of Sandwell Council
Cllr Ian Courts - Leader of Solihull Council
Cllr Mike Bird - Leader of Walsall Council
Cllr Ian Brookfield - Leader of Wolverhampton Council