After a week's break from my Chairman's statements, I am glad to be able to provide an update for you again and lots of progress has been made. We have now been welcoming visitors back to the islands for nearly a fortnight. I’m pleased to say that things have gone well so far; however, we remain cautious as we all learn how best to gradually reopen for business, as safely and with as much respect for each other as possible. It seems government guidance is generally being adhered to, but this is not always the case, so I urge everyone to keep in mind that the islands are no more immune from the virus than elsewhere.
There is still apprehension in our community that opening to visitors may bring some cases of the virus to Scilly. There are also concerns about the impact on the visitor economy since the beginning of lockdown and the ongoing impacts relating to hardship and emotional wellbeing. I share all of these concerns and believe that we are moving forward in the most appropriate way by gradually, cautiously, safely restarting our economy.
Scilly is always likely to be fragile given our size, remoteness and unique funding arrangements. We provide a wide variety of Council services, including an airport and a Fire and Rescue service. This was challenging even before COVID-19. Our businesses have taken a big hit, not all surviving and some racking up debt. Remaining closed to the tourist economy was never a viable option when the national guidance for England is for businesses to reopen.
I have been glad to see the carefully considered changes taking place on the islands in the last week, because I believe that people need to be able to access services and it’s good for people to begin to socialise again, albeit within current constraints. Life is not without risk to any of us and it’s important to remember that the pandemic may have eventually reached the islands by other means than our valued visitors. This is a way of life we have to adapt to whilst staying safe as best we can. Some of you will have chosen to continue to shield for your own reasons, and the Council has provision in place to help in these cases.
The harsh reality of the situation remains, but I want to reassure you that your Council has done an amazing job to make sure we are well prepared for any cases of the virus. Indeed, we are one of the best prepared Councils in the country and are being held up as an example of good practice. A huge debt of gratitude is due to our officers and staff across the board, but specifically those involved in emergency planning, outbreak management and those delivering our health and social care services. We are doing our very best to communicate everything you need to know through our website and via our Council social media channels.
Rest assured that we have been through all the different scenarios raised with us and are constantly considering further issues that we could be faced with as guidance changes. Much work is going on behind the scenes to try and keep our community and our visitors safe. If you have questions about how the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are being handled on Scilly, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Council in the usual way (0300 1234 105, selecting option 5 to speak to our local Enquiries Team if your query is not addressed by the other options).
A wide range of information about the local arrangements relating to coronavirus can be found at the following page on the Council website: https://www.scilly.gov.uk/news/coronavirus-covid-19-what-you-need-know. The information on this page will be updated regularly.
I very much hope you can enjoy the rest of this summer and join me in looking forward to better times ahead for this wonderful archipelago.