The key message remains: stay alert, control the virus, save lives – and keep social distancing.
We now have the detailed data telling us where infections are occurring so we are in a much better place to act swiftly to contain any potential outbreaks.
We remain extremely vigilant and are following the data closely. Even though the total numbers are small we cannot be too careful. The government has given us new powers under certain circumstances to shut pubs, cafes, shops and restaurants, as well as close public places and cancel events. This could be in order to prevent the spread of infection, or to provide a public health response to an incident. It is expected that the new powers will only be used as a last resort, but they will be used if it is necessary. You can see the public data on our new Test and Trace Beacon website (https://staysafecsw.info/)
Staying alert among other things means being careful. I was in a shop attached to a local service station at the weekend, one that is used regularly by passing traffic, not just local traffic. The shop had a one-way system in place: I met a customer in mid aisle who had totally ignored the signs, which I pointed to; unbelievably, I met the same customer a minute later, in another aisle.
The way we can avoid local lockdowns is to keep social distancing, wear face coverings when we go inside shops or bars and continue with hand hygiene. Surely, we can all agree following these basics. Being a little careful and considerate is preferable to any new lockdown.
As more of our economy begins to re-awaken, however, I’m cautiously optimistic that the measures businesses have put in place are limiting the spread of the virus in the borough. Nothing is like it was, but slowly people are going back to our centres to shop and socialise.
Controlling the virus has seen new guidance from the Government suggesting anybody can use public transport, while of course encouraging you to consider alternative means of transport if available.
From this Saturday 25 July, we can look forward to indoor gyms, pools and other sports facilities re-opening. We have been working with our leisure centre partners to put in place the necessary plans to allow Tudor Grange and North Solihull leisure centres to welcome back swimmers, gym users and other customers. We will have more details soon.
Similarly, on Saturday 1 August we can expect new government guidance about a more extensive return to work; how bowling, skating rinks and casinos, alongside businesses that require close contact, such as beauty therapists, can resume. In the autumn, we might also be going to indoor performances as well as larger gatherings, in venues like sports stadia. Wedding receptions will also be able to accommodate up to 30 guests (dependent on the size of the room and venue).
All the above relaxations are part and parcel of our recovery. We have to support businesses, as they re-open to kick-start the economy now, but we also have to plan for opportunities in the future as it is clear that the economy will take the next few years to recover. That is exactly what we are doing with our plans for the HS2 Interchange site and the Town Centre
In other news, for the first time in the history of the census, there will be a question on service in the Armed Forces, following a campaign led by The Royal British Legion and PoppyScotland and supported by the Council. Knowing if people have served will enable us to better support the armed forces community in Solihull, under the banner of our armed forces covenant.
A quick reminder, don’t forget you can Click and Collect library books from The Core, Chelmsley Wood and Shirley Libraries. Order your books via the online booking system on the Library Service web pages or by phoning 0121 704 8001. For more information go to https://www.solihull.gov.uk/Resident/Libraries/We-Select-You-Collect
Finally, as schools begin the summer holidays I want to thank all the teachers and support staff for their hard work over the past months. Many of our schools remained open throughout the lockdown to educate children of key workers or vulnerable children, and now I hope they all have a wonderful, well-deserved holiday.
And having said that, I also want to pay tribute to all the parents who have had to take on the role of home educators, many using materials from their children’s school, but sometimes having to improvise. I know for many it has been an eye-opener and a challenge! But well done, enjoy the summer holidays with your children!