South Tyneside has seen a spike in cases of coronavirus over the last two weeks. As a result we are now on the Government's watchlist and there are very real fears that the virus could spread further which could see us looking at further restrictions or even local lockdown.
This is the very last thing that anyone wants and I want to reassure you that your Council and our partners are doing all we can to prevent this happening.
Over the weekend officers, in partnership with the police, carried out spot checks on pubs and restaurants to remind businesses of their responsibilities to help keep people safe. These visits were in addition to previous visits by our Environmental Health teams and were well received by both businesses and their customers. The vast majority of premises were COVID-compliant. However, investigations are ongoing into a small number of venues and both the police and the Council are committed to taking action if a business is found to breach the guidance.
Enhanced contact tracing is also being carried out to try to identify any connections between cases and hot spot areas within the Borough. We have also asked care homes to temporarily suspend visits in a bid to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. We have also been in touch with care home staff to offer them extra support to help keep residents safe.
Right now we are at a tipping point in South Tyneside. It is critical that everyone works with us to avoid the need for more drastic restrictions being imposed. Failure to do so can risk spreading the virus to your own family and loved ones and then more widely in your community.
I appreciate far too many of you already understand the tragic consequences of this virus and I sympathise with each and every one of you who has lost a loved one to COVID-19.
Despite this, unfortunately there are still some people who are failing to follow the guidance, particularly young adults who may not be at risk themselves but are at risk of spreading the virus to others, especially older loved ones.
I cannot stress enough how vital it is that everyone continues to follow the guidance around social distancing and hand washing. You should only socialise with a maximum of one other household indoors and up to six people outdoors. You should wear a face covering when required to do so unless you are exempt. It is also important that you follow the advice from NHS Test and Trace if you are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for the virus and self-isolate for 14 days. Please only get a test if you are displaying symptoms of COVID -19.
I encourage anyone who believes a hospitality business is not adhering to the rules to speak to the venue's manager or a member of staff to share their concerns.
The pandemic has had a profound effect on all of us and we're all enjoying having some of our freedoms back. However coronavirus is still with us and it will take a collective effort to beat it. I would urge each and every one of you to do your bit. Failure to do so could lead to, not only more draconian restrictions on our everyday life, but the tragic loss of lives which could have been prevented. The time has come to really pull together and if we do, then I believe we will overcome.
Councillor Iain Malcolm
Leader, South Tyneside Council