It is good news that a timetable for an easing of the lockdown restrictions has been laid out by government, with primary schools starting to take more pupils back from this week and some non-essential businesses starting to reopen.
This does not mean that Covid-19 has gone away. The virus continues to circulate in our communities and we could very easily see a resurgence if we do not continue to follow good personal hygiene and social distancing.
I have spoken before about the incredible work that schools and educational settings and their staff have been doing since the start of the pandemic. Their efforts have been humbling and inspiring to us all. Many schools have remained open to support vulnerable children and the children of key workers, which has allowed essential staff to get to work and help keep things going.
We anticipate that most primary schools will reopen, taking in priority classes over the next few weeks. We will continue to support them to make sure they have everything they need to operate safely. I trust people will join with me in thanking them on behalf of the children and families of Staffordshire for their response to date, and the work they are planning for the next phase.
Last week we saw the launch of the Test and Trace service, the next phase in Government efforts to contain the virus. This means people who are known to have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, will be contacted and instructed to self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of whether they have any symptoms.
It’s vital that we follow these instructions, so if you are contacted please do as they ask. This is about protecting yourself, your family, and the wider community – and avoiding a second peak and further lock-down restrictions.
Whilst as a country and as a council we are starting to think about how we support our economy and our communities to recover from the unprecedented disruption to our lives, it is important to remember that our fight against the pandemic is still ongoing.
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The council is continuing to manage outbreaks in our care homes and preparing to manage outbreaks in our schools and elsewhere.
Our care providers continue to do an amazing job supporting some of the most vulnerable people and we have provided an additional £20m to help them do this along with one million pieces of Personal Protective Equipment.
We have delivered over 2,000 food parcels to vulnerable self-isolators and we will need to think about how this support can be sustained in the longer term drawing on the voluntary sector and our communities.
We have also provided £155,000 for voluntary and community groups, £500,000 for small businesses and support for foster carers and nursery providers.
We all have a very important role to play in containing the infection and as restrictions start to be lifted, it is as important as ever that we all continue to follow the latest advice.
Drop a heart on our special map of gratitude to show your support for our NHS heroes https://www.thanksamillionnhs.co.uk/