Message from Councillor Ian Courts (Leader of SMBC)

As a sign of the increasing seriousness of the situation, the Government announced yesterday that all schools should close from Monday 23 March; there was an acknowledgment that this could adversely affect workers in the NHS and other key areas. The Government has tasked the Council with finding a way to provide schooling for the children of our key workers, to allow their parents and carers to continue the fight against Covid-19. We are currently working through the guidance and will have a plan in place as soon as we can.

We have made available some information abut the support available for individuals and businesses which can be found here.

These latest announcements are examples of what we are now having to deal with on a day to day basis and I expect this to continue. Please do understand that officers at the council are doing their utmost, in trying circumstances: some are having to work from home, because they are at risk and regrettably some are reporting Covid-19 symptoms and therefore have to self-isolate. It is important to remember that 80% of people who get Covid-19 will only have mild symptoms.

As I think we are all beginning to realise, it is now necessary to adjust to a new way of living and working. However, I have a fear that those who are self-isolating will, in a real sense, become isolated. Now more than ever, we will all have a role in the community; looking to others around us. If the experience of other countries is anything to go by, it will be some time before we can lead the lives we did but a few short months ago: and this role in the community may go on for some months.

Through Solihull CAVA, we will shortly be issuing a guide called “Together we can help to keep safe, keep calm and keep well”. It suggests ways that people can help to support themselves, their loved ones and their communities. This will be available on our website.

We are encouraging people to start a group conversation, using technology and/or a ‘buddy’ system as appropriate, with relatives, friends and neighbours, to discuss what to do with a COVID-19 outbreak in their community; we want to remind people to look at ways to provide practical care for those who might be at greater risk; also to set up a complete emergency contact list.

At some point, I suspect boredom is likely to cause people to break their self-isolation and social distancing. The guide has some handy information to help structure the day, as well as useful web links and phone numbers for organisations that can help.

One final point, I am afraid there are people out there who already see Covid-19 as an opportunity to prey on the vulnerable. We all now need to take extra care with cyber-security; double check that any unannounced visitors are really who they say they are: if they are legitimate, they will be happy to let you verify their credentials with their organisation. (The Police’s Action Fraud team has more information on this and we have recently issued some guidance here). Continue to look to trusted websites such as GOV.UK, the NHS, PHE or the Council.)

Please, please look after yourself and take care in these trying and ever changing circumstances

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council