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Message from South Tyneside Council Leader

With cases of the Omicron variant now surging across the North East, I wanted to talk to you directly about the pressure we are facing and what this could mean over the coming weeks.

Like other areas, our community has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Many of us have struggled with feelings of loneliness during periods of isolation and lockdowns.  Some of us have been extremely ill and sadly, some of us have lost friends and loved ones.

Over the last few weeks, we have seen rising numbers of people affected by the Omicron variant. Although thankfully this does not appear to cause most people to be seriously ill, it is resulting in unprecedented levels of staff absences both at the Council and at our partner organisations.

Services in some areas of the Council are already stretched which is posing a new set of challenges ahead.  Last week our refuse crews experienced high levels of sickness which impacted on the service.  I'm grateful to the staff who worked over the weekend to support affected residents.  However, there may be further disruption of services ahead.

Please be assured that we are doing all we can to ensure that vital services are maintained in the coming weeks.

However, sickness and isolation measures could be particularly challenging for some of our business critical and frontline services including winter maintenance, housing repairs, handy estates, adult and children's social care, schools, and leisure where redeployment of other staff is often simply not viable due to the specialist nature of the roles. Similarly, our health and care sectors are also being severely impacted. We are working closely with our partner organisations to offer support where we can.

This is clearly not just a South Tyneside issue but one that is being mirrored across the country.

I know that any disruption can be frustrating but please rest assured that we are working tirelessly to minimise this wherever we can.

Our focus is on ensuring that critical services, particularly those for vulnerable people, are disrupted as little as possible by these unprecedented challenges.

At this moment in time, we ask for your patience and understanding in what is a rapidly changing situation. I want to personally thank you for everything you are doing to protect yourself and others.  It is important and necessary to follow the isolation guidance that applies to you.

Along with vaccination, this is our best way out of the pandemic. If you're unsure of the guidance that applies to you then visit www.gov.uk for the latest isolation advice.

Council and South Tyneside Homes employees maintain Covid secure practices and continue to observe any workplace mitigations that have been put in place, such as social distancing and wearing face coverings, unless exempt. Visitors are strongly encouraged to continue to use test and trace in all council buildings and to wear face coverings, unless exempt.

The best way to stay up to date with information on Council services is by using our website - www.southtyneside.gov.uk/coronavirus  or follow our social media channels.

Cllr Tracey Dixon

Leader

South Tyneside Council

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