This week our Covid infection rates continued to fall from 150 to 106 cases per 100,000 residents – that’s roughly 140 people with the virus across Warwick District. We’ve also had improvements in the over 60’s infection levels and our local hospitals are doing a brilliant job maintaining good Covid bed capacity.
To keep us safe and support the recovery of our economy, rest assured that we’re thinking well beyond Christmas. In the next few weeks the local vaccination programme will begin; however, it will be some months before we can drop our guard. There’s no room to be complacent in our shared response to this virus, or in the actions that we must take now to protect jobs and drive our Recovery Plan. Lockdown 2 felt so much tougher than the first, but unless we remain vigilant to avoid giving our loved ones the gift of Covid this Christmas, a further lockdown in the new year will surely follow.
One practical measure we can all take is to wear a mask when mixing indoors with anyone outside our household. Remember, our masks are not a decoration, so must cover our nose and mouth if they’re to afford any protection to us or those we’re meeting. Of course, this is not just a health crisis, it’s an economic one too. Unemployment is rising rapidly, particularly for our young, so the challenge is to strike the right balance in addressing both our safety and our livelihoods.
We’re making the case to government that our tier classification should be based on the County area, rather than a cohort of authorities that includes Solihull and Coventry. South Warwickshire has significantly lower infection levels than neighbouring Worcestershire or even London or Liverpool, but has been misclassified and placed in the Very High Tier 3. This is having a devastating effect on our hospitality sector which generates some £6b annually, so we’re supporting our neighbours at Stratford District Council who are seeking a Judicial Review to challenge the government’s rationale for this misjudged decision. The next tier review will be based on 14 December data, with a decision announced on 16 December, followed by Parliamentary approval the next day, meaning the earliest we could be able to revisit our local restaurants, cafés and pubs would be Friday 18 December.
Actions speak louder than words. So, today we launched a scheme targeting our hospitality sector, offering £2000 grants to help mitigate the effects of enforced Tier 3 closure. In just five hours over 60 applications have already been received. From 14 December eligible businesses will also be able to claim up to £1,500 providing respite from closure losses for every 14-day period from 2 December.
Our amazing team of Officers have worked all hours during Lockdown 2, quickly paying out £1.2m to 757 businesses in the district which applied for the Local Restrictions Grant. Over 200 small businesses have also received a further £148,000 under the Additional Restrictions Grant. This vital financial lifeline can never make-up for the full impact of the economic crisis, but hopefully it has given timely support to our hard-pressed local business community.
Now is the time for us to also personally back our local businesses, by returning to our towns to purchase Christmas essentials and special gifts. Every pound that we spend in our towns will save local jobs. Don’t forget too, to help your visit to be as safe and convenient as possible, you can park for free in our town centre and off-street car parks throughout December.
In addition to our regular Kenilworth and Warwick weekly markets, the Yuletide markets reopen in Leamington this and every Sunday through to Christmas. Safety measures have been put in place so we can all enjoy the festive atmosphere and personal shopping experience.
Another great example of our community coming together is in the support being given to our vulnerable residents. Our Officers have helped New Life Church to access Defra funding to deliver over 51,000 meals, as well as 700 holiday hampers. In fact, the Transforming Communities Together Warwick team are on schedule to deliver 1,200 hampers across the District by the end of the month, spreading joy far and wide, amazing!
This is a good moment to keep a watchful eye on family, friends and neighbours who might be vulnerable and need support. Housing team officers have been checking-in with our tenants. The Covid-19 Community directory gives helpful information and a call to 0800 4081447 will access support for the clinically extremely vulnerable. Remember too that the council’s Community Emergency Recovery Fund is still available for charitable organisations which have adapted or increased their support services to help out during the pandemic.
Looking ahead, the Spa Centre is already planning for next year’s pantomime, Aladdin and entries for the competition to win four tickets can be made, here.
Keep smiling and stay safe
Andrew Day Chris Elliott
Leader, Warwick District Council Chief Executive, Warwick District Council