Stay Home, protect our NHS and save lives.
I am pleased that people do seem to be heeding the advice and are now staying at home. This, along with keeping your distance, is the most important action we can take to fight coronavirus; it’s all about reducing the spread of infection by minimising day to day contact, protecting capacity in our NHS and helping save lives.
The situation is deadly serious and has caused us to close all the communal areas within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts, outdoor gyms and each park’s car park, to reduce the chance of people congregating and passing on this highly infectious virus.
Now we do have to stay at home, with just one trip out a day for fresh air and exercise, our parks and open spaces are important to us all – but it is only two of us at any one time, keeping at least 2m away from anyone else we might come across. Be prepared to step off the path to maintain this distance. (This is something we now have to deal with; even at that distance we can smile and say ‘hello’, continue to be friendly, kind and supportive, from a few metres away!).
If you, or a family member, is one of the 1.5 million people that the government has identified as being particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 on medical grounds, you will be receiving a letter from your GP, titled “IMPORTANT ADVICE TO KEEP YOU SAFE FROM CORONAVIRUS”.
This is because the NHS has identified you, or the named person you care for, as someone at risk of severe illness if you catch COVID-19; it outlines the special precautions you need to take to keep safe and contains important contact information. If you are able to use existing help and support, please continue to do this. If you need additional support, please register online or by phone. The details are in the fourth paragraph of the letter. You can ask someone else, for example, a family member or friend to do this for you.
The Council is facing increasing demands due to this crisis and is having to further prioritise and limit its services: we will not be able to register births for the foreseeable future; although, crucially, you will be able to apply for universal credit without registering your child’s birth. (There are more details on our website about all these things)
In light of the new rules, our cemetery grounds will remain open, but the waiting rooms, Book of Remembrance and memorial rooms are all closed and other services we usually offer are suspended until further notice.
I would personally like to say a big thank you to all our parents in the borough. The vast majority of you are keeping your children at home and, as a grandfather myself, I appreciate the additional challenges that this will bring. However, some people are having to work. We owe a debt to those in schools, to child care providers, for keeping them open to support our frontline workers and vulnerable children; likewise for the heroic efforts of our NHS staff, to those serving us in the supermarkets, the pharmacies and the thousands of backroom staff keeping deliveries flowing.
I have been asked about some Council services that are continuing and, although these are having to be prioritised it is important to continue, wherever we can, to try and keep our public places safe, clean, tidy and presentable. Sometimes, the presence of our staff can help promote a feeling of community safety and a little sense of normality at a very uncertain time for us all. In the past, they have also played an important role in being our eyes and ears on the ground, on the lookout for vulnerable people in our borough, those who need help the most.
A big thank you is due to the community groups – both those long established, and also recently set up – who have been doing such a sterling job in these difficult times. We recognise the very valuable role you are playing and please continue with this, but remember to observe the social distancing minimum two metre guidance, leaving food etc. on doorsteps.
The Council is in the process of producing further guidance for community groups. In the meantime, people can contact our call centre if they need help on 0121 704 8001/6000, or if they are an SCH tenant, they should call SCH on 0121 717 1515.
It is great that lots of people are offering to volunteer; check to see if a group has been set up online which covers your street, as I am sure they would value your support. If you want to volunteer (and it is safe for you to do so) and you can’t find a local group covering your area, then you can ring us on 0121 704 6811 from Friday 27 March.
If you are considered at risk through age or health, please do not volunteer, it is more important that you help our NHS by self-isolating.
This new normal will test everyone’s mental health resilience and you need to keep mentally fit – have a look at the ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign – there are some very simple ways to help us all keep positive and motivated.
Stay home, stay safe, help protect the NHS and save lives.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council