Chairman’s update on the coronavirus pandemic - 5 November 2020

Firstly, I’d like to thank Vice Chairman, Councillor Fran Grottick for keeping you all updated in my absence. I have now returned to work fully refreshed and ready to address the issues at hand following the latest announcements from government. I’m sure the Prime Minister’s announcement of a second national lockdown came as a shock and raised a number of concerns for many of you. I have been reassured by our officers that the Council has all the necessary preparations in place and that the islands are in a very good position to cope well with both the demands of lockdown and the return to the tier system after 2 December.

The government has announced a series of economic support measures to coincide with the lockdown restrictions. These include a Local Restrictions Support Grant for business premises forced to close in England due to government restrictions. We’re expecting further guidance on this in the next few days and will update you further once this emerges. The Council will also receive a small discretionary grant fund of just over £44,000. In the coming days, we will be looking at the fairest way to allocate this discretionary grant to help businesses in hardship and in greatest need of support.

We will continue to answer questions on the national guidance, how to access support and what this all means for both individuals and businesses as soon as we have established how it will apply to the islands. Look out for this information on our website and social media channels. We are always looking at ways to circulate information more widely, but please continue to pass important messages to anyone you are aware does not have access to the internet and direct them to our enquiries team (0300 1234 105, option 5) if they need to raise an issue over the phone.

It is unfortunate that we will not be able to commemorate Remembrance Sunday in the usual, public way this year. A small number of invited representatives from the Council and other key partners will officially mark the occasion with a private service instead. More information about these arrangements and advice for our residents who wish to pay their respects to the fallen can be found here

The Council will be here for you throughout lockdown. It is as important as ever to work collaboratively and be respectful and kind to one another. As troubling as these restrictions undoubtedly are for everyone, particularly those facing economic hardship and personal difficulties, it is vital that we all abide by these latest social restrictions as a community to help minimise the spread of the virus and its impact locally.

Of course, whilst we broadly know what to expect this time around, there are significant differences between this lockdown and the previous one. Firstly, we are unlikely to have the same wonderful weather as in the spring. This may have an impact on our health and wellbeing, and we must make a concerted effort to be supportive of one another at this time. Try to get exercise in the open air when you can, in line with the lockdown restrictions and remotely check in with anyone you know may be facing issues related to loneliness or isolation. Our services are here to support people in this situation, so please continue to direct anyone who may be in need of help to the Council via our enquiries team or website. Secondly, the comings and goings of those working in construction and maintenance may be more noticeable this time around as the government has specified these kinds of works can and should continue where appropriate. So expect to see some activity and please respect that these people are here to do an essential job.

Sadly, some of our services have had to close their buildings already, including the library and Active Scilly. You can find out how these teams have adapted their offer on the relevant pages of the Council website, their respective Facebook pages, or by calling the enquiries team. Thank you to all of the Council officers who continue to work in new ways to ensure the continuation of as many services as possible in these trying times and thank you to everyone for bearing with us as we try to make sense of each new round of restrictions.

My intention is to issue these Chairman’s updates every week throughout the lockdown. I’m also pleased to confirm that we will be making paper copies available in the Post Office and the Paper Shop.

As ever, stay safe and remember: wash hands, cover face, make space. Whilst it may not seem like it now, every small effort takes us one step closer to beating the virus.

All best wishes

Robert Francis
Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly

Publishing date: 
Thursday, 5 November, 2020