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Letter from Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of the Council - Thursday 25 June 2020

From 4 July we will move into a new phase of our battle with coronavirus. The Government has announced major changes and the lifting of some lockdown measures however, we must all remember that the threat of coronavirus is real, and we must all continue to play our part to stay on top of the virus.

I want to reassure the people of South Tyneside that your council, and partners, continue to do all we can to keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible. Whilst the government announces major policy changes nationally, it is up to us as your council to implement these at a local level and to provide local solutions to the ongoing crisis.

As we move to our new future, we must continue to follow the critical public health advice - maintaining social distancing, washing our hands thoroughly and regularly, and using face coverings.

It is also important to clarify 1m+ social distancing. 1m+ does not mean 1m apart. It means 1m plus extra measures - like a face covering, or not standing face to face, or using screens. 1m plus mitigation has the same risk as 2m.

The medical and scientific experts were clear that 2m is still the best social distance to maintain where you can and vitally - we must always socially distance with anyone who is not from our household.

Social distancing is part of our lives for the moment.

Our local businesses will slowly open, and we will continue to support them during this time. Already we have issued almost £25m in grants and support. Our shop safe initiative has helped the high street open including the use of marshals to provide shoppers with help and support.

In the first phase of the pandemic we were quick to establish vital support services to help people experiencing financial, physical and mental difficulties - this support will continue. It may look different in the future, but your council is here for you.

Those in our community who have been shielded will soon be able to move out of full lockdown by creating support bubbles and meeting others outside.

The government is drawing the shielding support service to a close from the end of July but just as we stepped in immediately to support the most vulnerable in our communities before the national programme was established, we will ensure that nobody is left without support when the national programme ends. We are currently working through the changes to see what our future support services will look like. To date we have helped over 5,000 people taking 19,000 actions to help keep them safe. 

We will of course continue to support our established food banks - as we do all year round. Providing vital support for families in need.

Any unlocking carries risk, it must be planned and managed with robust measures in place so that we can react quickly. The Council and our partners are working on a South Tyneside Outbreak Control Plan - designed to tackle local outbreaks swiftly and decisively. This is a plan that we will not want to implement, but a necessary measure to ensure that communities and settings can respond should we have new connected cases.

As the Prime Minister and his advisors stated, there will be further outbreaks. And that is why it is vital that we all adhere to the NHS Test and Trace service guidance to help identify, contain and control the virus to limit the spread of infection.

Whilst most council services have continued to operate throughout lockdown there are still some, like our leisure centres and swimming pools, that have been instructed to remain closed.

We are still working through the detail, still waiting for outstanding guidance to be released by government but rest assured your council will continue to deliver for people of South Tyneside.

We have all played our own part in helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus and I would like to thank the people of South Tyneside for adhering to the restrictions placed upon our communities over recent weeks. I also want to take the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices that many have made and send my deepest condolences to those who have sadly lost loved ones during this period.

The fight is not over.  It's up to all of us to tackle the virus. We must all do what we can. It will take our collective effort to ensure that South Tyneside continues to be as safe as possible. Rest assured your council is here to continue support you through this.

Cllr Iain Malcolm
Leader
South Tyneside Council

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