Already 2.4 million have had their first vaccination, great progress, but we still have weeks to go before we are out of the current rising crisis.

Solihull’s Director of Public Health has posted a summary of our current situation and I can really say no more. You can read the full message here“This is really serious. We need to put the brakes on COVID now!” The latest data shows the new variant is now accounting for 70% of new positive tests in Solihull:  the virus is now easier to transmit so we have to be even more cautious.

I have just watched the news, and we have had the worst day yet for fatalities; over the coming weeks, we will have more bad news as the current high infection rates turn to hospital cases and worse.

After much lobbying and pressure, I am pleased to hear many supermarkets are going to refuse entry to those without face coverings and that some retailers are even curtailing their click and collect service for the moment.  I really urge supermarkets in particular to go further, and be stricter, in terms of ensuring shoppers can maintain proper social distancing; better signage and floor-markings, and one way systems wherever possible.  We must reduce contact with others, even outdoors, but especially if we are indoors.

So we still need to get these infection rates down. Each of us must imagine we have COVID, and everyone you meet has it.  Only by acting in this way can we try and stop COVID in its tracks.

Having said the above, we have to recognise that not everyone is in the position to behave like this.  Our teachers and pupils, care workers and social workers, nurses and doctors, shop workers and deliverers, so many others in the front line, they are all in a totally different position – they really cannot avoid coming into contact with people. We owe them and all our other critical workers a huge debt of gratitude for keeping the country going during these incredibly difficult times. On behalf of Solihull I thank you.

I would also like to thank some of our major employers for the work they are doing to increase access to testing for key workers. This week, Jaguar Land Rover launched regular testing for their workers as part of a national pilot.

This will include offering people who are in contact with a positive case a repeat test for COVID for seven days as an alternative to self-isolation. Over the next few weeks, more rapid testing will be coming on stream to support key workers to help identify cases even more quickly.

This third lockdown has hit businesses really hard and to make sure they know what support is available we have organised a free webinar with our Income and Awards team on Tuesday 19 January at 2.30pm.

Next week’s ‘Blue Monday’ will soon be upon us so I’d like to remind everyone at this difficult time that there is help and support out there.

For those feeling anxious and worried, remember there is online support from our local NHS, with a range of advice, guidance and support available. Residents can also find local advice and support on our Here2Help pages or even if necessary call our Connect service on 0121 704 8000 and speak to one of our customer service staff.

Vaccination is the light at the end of the tunnel, but it may be a long tunnel; the NHS is pressing ahead well with this programme, but even after vaccination, my understanding is that you may still be able to transmit the disease; so we have to be very careful.

Please stay at home and help us stop COVID spreading.

Stay safe

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Counci

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