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Message from Cllr Iain Malcolm, Leader of the Council - 16 March 2020

Reports around coronavirus can be unsettling and I understand that many people across South Tyneside will be feeling worried. Firstly, I want to reassure everyone that the Council, South Tyneside Homes and our partners are doing everything we can to support people to be safe.

We know that there will be COVID-19 cases in South Tyneside, however with the change to testing arrangements we will not know exactly how many. I want to reassure people that we are working closely with Public Health England, the NHS and all our partners on the South Tyneside Health and Well-being Board to limit the spread of the virus. We wish anyone suffering coronavirus symptoms a full and speedy recovery.

We will continue to monitor developments closely and follow national and regional advice. We have plans and procedures in place for handling situations involving public health and emergencies, which we regularly plan and train for. At present, most council services are continuing to run as normal. However, it is inevitable that the council will have to focus its resources where they are needed most.

I know that some of you will have concerns around food supplies given activity over the weekend. I have asked officers to review the provision of free school meals and have authorised further payments to our foodbanks. I must urge you though, please do not panic buy.

South Tyneside's strong community spirit and incredible army of volunteers in the third sector is something that really makes us stand out. Already people are coming together to try and do their bit, however it is important that we support a safe and sustainable volunteer response. We will be working with partners and our third sector to maximise efforts of both existing and new volunteers. This isn't just about being part of an organised group though, but also about the little things we can do to look out for one another as part of being a good citizen. Keep in touch with those around you and alert us if you have any safeguarding concerns. I want to take the time to give my thanks to people across the Borough who continue to do a fantastic job day in day out to help support our communities.

A lot of work is going on to ensure that resources are prioritised to support the most vulnerable in our society and focused on delivering our statutory functions. The Council, through myself and the Chief Executive, is in regular dialogue with central government seeking additional resources and guidance where available.

We have taken the decision to suspend our meeting of Borough Council this Thursday as a precaution and so that we can focus all of our efforts onto the coronavirus response. We will continue to evaluate the plan for future meetings over coming days and weeks but please be assured that decision making will continue.

We need you to help us as much as you can. Services will need to be flexible to adapt with the situation as it evolves. As residents of South Tyneside, we know we have your understanding if we have to cease or delay any non-emergency works. With that in mind we are asking that you do not contact the council or South Tyneside Homes unless it is an emergency.

We will communicate service disruptions via our website and social media channels as normal.  For some services, such as social care, we will also contact you directly to explain the impact of changes for you.

This is the start of a long period of disruption and we ask the people of South Tyneside to work with us.  We urge residents to maintain a sensible, proportionate response and take simple steps to help prevent the spread of the virus and protect yourself, your family and your community.

I know you will want to look after your own health and wellbeing, and the health of people you care about. The most important thing people can do to protect themselves remains washing their hands more often, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water. Make sure you cough or sneeze into a tissue, put it in a bin and wash your hands.

The latest national advice is that only people showing symptoms of a high temperature - 37.8 degrees or above - or have a new, persistent cough should stay at home for seven days, regardless of where they have travelled to or who they have come into contact with. Anyone who is healthy and well should go about their lives as usual.

If symptoms worsen or are no better after seven days they should contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk, or call NHS 111 if they have no internet access.

In South Tyneside we have dedicated health professionals in the council and the NHS working to safeguard our Borough. I want to thank all these teams who are ensuring that our Borough remains open for people to live, work, study and visit, and offer my best wishes to any families that might be affected by the virus. 

Yours faithfully

Cllr Iain Malcolm
Leader, South Tyneside Council
Chair, South Tyneside Health and Well-being Board

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