On Monday the country’s Chief Medical Officer and our Chief Scientific Advisor warned us that the coronavirus is spreading. The Prime Minister then reinforced the seriousness of the situation facing the country and the likelihood it could last another six months, asking for us all to pull together to control the virus.
The new measures include pubs and restaurants closing at 10pm; if you go to a pub or restaurant, you now have to wear a face covering when you’re not seated, alongside a request that those who can work from home, should.
If we don’t follow the hands, face, space guidance we will have another awful period of more and more people getting sick and dying as we witnessed in April and May.
In Solihull, we are into the second week of being a government area of national intervention and one of our secondary schools had to close its doors for two weeks from Wednesday, for a circuit break to control an outbreak of Covid-19, involving pupils and teachers.
This is a tragedy for those pupils’ education. I know Arden has exemplary online teaching systems, but as the Head said in his TV interview, it was fantastic to have the children back creating a real ‘buzz’ in the school and allowing pupils to learn together.
We need the closure of Arden School to be a wake-up call. The Council’s Chief Executive was right to point out that we have the highest number of people on furlough in the region. Any further restrictions could mean those pupils’ parents losing their jobs.
We all need to ‘keep doing the right thing’ for Knowle, for Dorridge, for Solihull.
Those pupils from Arden who need to self-isolate must follow the rules. They and their parents need to realise self-isolating isn’t a holiday, it isn’t an opportunity to go for a bike ride or to meet up with friends in parks or town centres. Self-isolating means staying at home, minimising any contact with anyone else and taking part in online lessons.
For all other pupils who are at home because of outbreaks, again this is not a vacation, there will still be school work to do and they must follow the rules, with parents making sure they know what they can and can’t do.
We have the rule of six, and that households cannot mix - we are a government area of national intervention and have even more restrictions.
You will have probably heard about the NHS Covid-19 app which is now available to download from the App Store and Google Play. The app is part of the coronavirus (Covid-19) testing and contact tracing programme called the NHS Test and Trace service. It will be used, alongside traditional contact tracing, to notify users if they come into contact with someone who later tests positive for coronavirus.
The app allows people to report symptoms, order a coronavirus test, check in to venues by scanning a QR code and it helps the NHS trace individuals that may have coronavirus.
I have just downloaded the App and would encourage everyone to download it. This is another weapon in our armoury to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Further information on the app, how it protects the privacy of individuals and how it works can be found here.
Solihull has a large number of people who have been furloughed, so it was good that the Chancellor has continued to find ways to support the economy with a new Job Support Scheme, starting in November, retention of the 5% VAT rate for the hospitality sector and more flexibility for companies to pay back government loans. More information on the Winter Economy plan is here.
I am sure there will be more detail to emerge and rest assured we will continue to work with our local businesses to provide as much support as we can to minimise the damage this pandemic is doing to our local economy.
Finally, one thing: I keep hearing - “the rules say this, or the rules say that or the rules are confusing”; sorry, but so often this seems to be an excuse to ignore them. It is individual behaviour and application of common sense that will stop this spread, and particularly making space/keeping our distance from others, using face coverings. We can all – that means every one of us - cut down the risk of transmission by following these basics steps.
Remember, hands, face, space – do take care
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 25 September 2020