“I don’t want Christmas cancelled, but should we postpone our Christmas bubbles?”

Professor Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer has compared the maximum three households meeting up for five days, to driving at 70mph on an icy treacherous road.

With this thought in our minds we all need to consider our plans over the holidays. If we are mixing with other households, the same question comes up – not can we, but should we? Is it worth the risk?

Just how difficult is all this?

After such a hard and unsettling year, the relaxation of rules was a small gift of normality. This is the time of year when we want to see friends and family, and many of us have not seen them for a long time, if at all, except socially distancing or virtually.

However, this is not a normal Christmas.

The news that we are staying in Tier 3 is disappointing, but with rising infection levels, I have to say, not that unexpected. Worryingly some other areas with low infection rates have seen a real spike – and just look at what is happening in Europe.

Maybe there is something that we just do not know about this disease, or maybe we are much more careless in our personal day to day behaviour than we would like to admit.

All the experts are asking us to think long and hard about our Christmas preparations, and to be ultra-cautious if we are thinking about spending time with elderly relatives and friends, especially those with underlying health problems.

A little over a week ago our infection rate was down to 153 per 100,000 (to 7 December) and over the past days we have seen this fall falter and go up again to 163 per 100,000 (week 6 to 12 December).

The whole mixing of generations over a Christmas bubble is fraught with risk. We know our schools saw steeply rising numbers of children and young people with COVID after the October half-term break.

We owe it to the 342 who have died already in Solihull, and their friends and families, not to add any more to the growing totals of infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

To reinforce these messages our ‘digivans’ will be out and about reminding people COVID is now on the increase, to get a test and ask everyone to limit their Christmas Bubble.

The vaccine rollout has started in Solihull and over 300 care home staff have been invited to the QE for vaccines and a number of GP surgeries have started offering jabs to vulnerable patients.

In the New Year they will begin to be rolled out in increasing numbers and we can be hopeful that we will control the virus and have our lives back; but we are not there yet. It is predicted that twice the number of people will spend Christmas alone this year as last year, particularly those over the age of 65.

Please look out for those on their own and reach out to them safely, whether it’s a phone-call or a simple hello through the window.

There is a lot of support to alleviate loneliness and get people connected all year round. So please reach out if you or someone you know needs help, there’s more info here.

Finally, you may have noticed that the Council website looks different. After months of work behind the scenes, we have switched over to our new website today.

The design has been refreshed and we have introduced new technology which will make it easier for people to interact with us. Work will continue in the New Year to refine the website and we welcome any feedback from your visits to the new site.

Keep well, keep positive and continue doing the right thing for Solihull. Just keep your distance from the next person: he or she may have our invisible COVID enemy

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 17 December 2020

Useful links:

1. Government guidance
2. Council Covid information
3. Flu vaccinations: For more information on who is eligible to get a free Flu vaccination the NHS website has all the details here.
4. Self-isolation fund – more info here
5. Business support – more info here

For more information contact the press office on press@solihull.gov.uk or 0121 704 6136.

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