SOLIHULL people are generally still abiding by social distancing rules as the borough prepares to ‘track and trace’ those potentially infected with Covid-19 with lockdown easing, says the council leader.
Councillor Ian Courts write in his latest newsletter: “Another fine bank holiday and for the first time in 15 years I was on my bike and tackling the Knowle bends.
“When out and about doing my essential shopping, it was good to see that people were, in the main, socially distancing in parks and open spaces.
“Whatever changes to guidance may bring in the next few weeks and months, it is likely that the principle of social distancing will remain in place. It’s only by following the distancing rules that outdoor markets, car showrooms and shops can open safely in the future. Until we can reduce the number infected to single figures, we will all need to get used to maintaining our distance from each other.
“As part of the UK’s approach to controlling the virus, we will be involved in the roll out of the Government’s new £300 million “test and trace” work along with Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, and the West Midlands Combined Authority.
“We will be given funding to develop tailored outbreak control plans, working with our local NHS and other stakeholders: especially plans that focus on identifying and containing potential outbreaks in places such as workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools.
“At the moment, we are working through the details, but we have the public health expertise from our professional teams, experienced in how to deal with food poisoning, flu and other infectious disease outbreaks.
“Once we can quickly isolate those with the virus, we can stop it spreading. It will mean we can start to accelerate our recovery plans and hopefully get more and more people back to work.
“As I have made clear in interviews, the council remains committed to getting education going again; our main concern has been, and always will be, the safety of our children and staff. By following advice and guidance, and by talking and listening to our head teachers and unions, we are now in a position to safely begin to welcome back more of our children from 1 June onwards.
“The exact timing, as well as how schools will begin to do this, will vary according to their individual risk assessments. Over the Bank Holiday weekend, we also had the announcement that secondary schools can begin to welcome back year 10 and year 12 pupils from 15 June. Secondary schools had already been working towards this date, so we will be supporting them with this new development.
“I hope parents and staff at our schools will be reassured by all the measures put in place to make it safe for our schools to accept more children. Continuing to observe social distancing in our normal family and working lives is vitally important to protect schools in this next phase. This is all dependent, of course, on the Government’s assessment of whether its five key tests have been met, including whether the transmission rate of the virus (the R number) continues to be below 1 – we expect confirmation either way on Thursday this week.
“Last week saw the announcement of the new antigen test and the promise of a ‘quick result’ test. These factors, along with the roll out of the test and trace programme, will begin to build confidence that hopefully will allow the government to begin a progressive relaxation of the lockdown.”