Dear residents and businesses,
New Year greetings to you all and I hope you had a nice Christmas under the circumstances and were able to enjoy some quality time with your loved ones.
With the Prime Minister’s announcement last night, 2021 has started as 2020 finished, with COVID-19 again affecting our lives and work in wide-reaching ways as we move into a third national lockdown.
The nation was asked last night to follow the new guidance immediately and the restrictions will become law from tomorrow, subject to Parliamentary approval.
I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of the key aspects of the new restrictions, which will affect some council services which we provide to residents and businesses, and of course I appreciate that the rules will also affect you in other ways too.
Everyone must stay at home wherever and whenever possible, except for a small number of permitted reasons, such as work which cannot be undertaken from home, going out for essential medical needs, food shopping and exercise.
Support and childcare bubbles will continue and people can meet one person from another household for outdoor exercise.
The advice to people who are clinically extremely vulnerable is not to attend work, school, college or university and to limit the time they spend outside their home. They should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential.
As of today, schools and colleges have closed to most pupils, except vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, and they will provide remote learning for other students until at least the half-term in February. End-of-year exams will not take place in the summer.
Early years settings such as nurseries will stay open however.
Restaurants can continue to offer food deliveries but takeaway alcohol will be banned.
Outdoor sports venues, such as golf courses, tennis courts and outside gyms, must close but outdoor playgrounds will remain open.
Amateur team sports are not allowed but elite sport such as Premier League football can continue.
Communal worship and events like funerals and weddings can continue, subject to limits on attendance.
More details about the national lockdown are available at www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home
The House of Commons has been recalled to allow MPs to vote on England’s new restrictions and the lockdown is due to last until at least mid-February.
I know many of you will be frustrated and disappointed by these restrictions, particularly the owners, managers and employees of businesses which continue to be affected by the Government’s measures to deal with the virus.
I share your concerns and you have my deepest sympathy if this latest phase of the pandemic threatens your business, employment and livelihoods.
We will continue to do our utmost to support businesses and residents as we deal with the ongoing effects of the pandemic and the latest restrictions and we have already been responding to last night’s announcement to implement necessary changes to our services.
You can see how the restrictions are affecting services at https://covid19.eastriding.gov.uk/
The Prime Minister’s announcement explained how the spread of COVID-19 this winter has outpaced the attempts to suppress it because of the new variant of the virus, which made it inevitable that tougher restrictions would be introduced.
It means many impacts on people’s work, children’s education, business livelihoods and families’ financial welfare and health and wellbeing but, as ever, the council will do everything it can to support our local communities through this latest challenge.
Please do visit the council’s website at https://covid19.eastriding.gov.uk/support/ to find out about the full range of support available for businesses, organisations and residents. It includes information about the financial aid available to businesses and residents, guidance about safety and COVID-19 prevention, advice and resources to support your mental and physical health and wellbeing and much more besides.
In the East Riding, we have done a fantastic job of keeping infection rates relatively low for much of the pandemic. We should all be proud that the responsible behaviour and sacrifices of people across the East Riding have resulted in our current COVID-19 infection levels being some of the lowest in England and Wales.
Despite this fantastic effort, our infection rates would still have inevitably grown and our local NHS hospitals and staff would have faced an impossible and unfair task over the coming weeks if tougher restrictions had not been introduced.
However, there are reasons to be optimistic for a better 2021.
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme is continuing to gather pace and the Prime Minister said last night that all care home residents and their carers, everyone aged 70 and over, all frontline health and social care workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable will be offered one dose of a vaccine by mid-February.
Please continue to be patient. You don’t need to contact the NHS, you will be contacted when it is your turn to have the vaccine.
The vaccine roll-out will help life return to something closer to normal but it will take time.
So, for the next few weeks, we need to keep pulling together, to do what we can to stop the virus spreading further. We need to keep doing the basics and to keep encouraging our families, friends, colleagues and our communities across the East Riding to play their part to minimise infection rates over the coming months.
That means continuing to follow the public health guidance – including our 3 Steps To Safety: Prevent. Notice. Act. If people keep doing the right things we will get through this and we can look forward to a better spring and a great summer, enjoying all the things we love to do with our family and friends.
Thank you for your continued support.