While I am sure everyone will be pleased to read about the Christmas arrangements, many will be disheartened by today’s news that Solihull has been placed in Tier 3 along with the West Midlands and Warwickshire from 2 December, following the end of the national lockdown.
I am bitterly disappointed. I’ve fought long and hard to make the case for Solihull to be in Tier 2, at the most. But the various measures and data used to determine these tier levels are against us.
However, the fact that we have been grouped with Coventry and Warwickshire is a very important change to the Government’s approach to determining who should go in which tier, and it could give us a route to a more rapid sub-regional exit from Tier 3.
I know we can continue to count on your support under these new restrictions. And I hope you accept that they are being put in place to protect us all, the vulnerable members of our community and our NHS in particular.
Despite this setback we must continue doing the right things for Solihull, the social distancing, wearing face coverings and hand washing that has helped us reduce COVID case numbers and the number of our people tragically losing their lives to this virus.
But from 2 December we cannot meet socially indoors, in private gardens or in many outdoor venues such as zoos, farms and theme parks.
And we are back to the ‘rule of 6’. You can now socialise with up to 6 in some other outdoor public spaces, including parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, a public garden, grounds of a heritage site or castle, or a sports facility.
One part of the new arrangements to be applauded is that from 2 December non-essential shops can re-open and our centres can welcome back shoppers. Similarly, leisure centres, gyms and pools can open as long as they take the necessary precautions.
I recognise the hospitality industry faces a tough time under Tier 3, as pubs and restaurants must close or only offer takeaways and click and collects. This was one of the reason why I fought so hard for Tier 2.
Let’s support our important town centre businesses where we can, but follow the rules to get the R rate down so we can make the case for being in Tier 2 as soon as possible.
The Council will continue to offer whatever support we can to individuals and businesses as we move through the coming weeks and months. Over the next few days we will begin to let you know exactly what is allowed and isn’t under Tier 3.
The Government will review the tiers every two weeks and if we can keep at it, maybe we can step down to Tier 2 and have a few more freedoms before Christmas.
The full regulations for Tier 3 can be found here.
The news about the Oxford vaccine was followed by what everyone was waiting to hear, a relaxation of the rules for Christmas. We will now be allowed to spend time with up to two other households between 23 and 27 December.
The PM introduced these new measures as - “a special, time-limited dispensation.” And I can only echo his words “Many of us are longing to spend time with family and friends... And yet we can't afford to throw caution to the wind."
Remember, as the posters I shared with you last week show, the virus thrives indoors. The longer we spend with people the more likely we are to become infected. To reduce the risks when you welcome or visit family or friends, keep your homes well ventilated and try to limit the time you spend together, please keep your distance – you never know who could be infected.
And while we can come together or visit friends and family for this short period, we do need to think, should we? We must consider the risks to ourselves and to others, particularly those who might be vulnerable. Also, the risk of further spread of the virus condemning us to ever tougher restrictions.
Please remember we will not be able to get together with others from more than two other households, and once we form a bubble it cannot not be changed or be extended any further.
The new measures will see travel restrictions across the four nations, and between tiers and levels, lifted to allow everyone to travel to and from bubbles between the 23 and 27 December. The full rules can be found here.
Finally, next week we’ll be making an announcement about a new public open space to be created in recognition of the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope that this new site will provide areas of peace and contemplation as well as increasing biodiversity in the borough and supporting our Planting the Future campaign.
Over the last three weeks alone we have planted about 4,200 trees which is a fantastic contribution to our target for this year.
Keep well, keep positive and continue doing the right thing for Solihull.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 26 November 2020