For anyone who isn’t already aware of our announcement on Tuesday, 12 January, please note that (fewer than 3) positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed on the Isles of Scilly. An update on this announcement was issued on 14 January. The main point to bear in mind is that all necessary measures - including the track and trace element - have been completed and that no action (beyond that already required by the government guidance) has been asked of the public at this stage. Clearly, we all wish anyone affected by the virus a swift and full recovery, but as with the previous announcement of cases in September, I must stress the need to respect the privacy of anyone affected and ask that we all think twice about the potential upset that speculation can cause.
I would like to reiterate my confidence in our diligent Public Health and local teams, and in the plans and procedures which enable them to respond effectively to such situations and minimise the risk of further spread. We have had to manage our response throughout the pandemic in an uncertain and evolving set of circumstances, and our island community has done exceptionally well in doing so. There will inevitably be more challenges ahead, but we are far better prepared to deal with them than in the early days of the pandemic. Whilst the cases mentioned in the announcement have been contained, it is still vitally important that if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms, you self-isolate and get a test IMMEDIATELY, either by calling our Testing Helpline on 01626 204950, or by emailing email@example.com.
As the pandemic rumbles on, there are various reasons why people may be finding it harder to act responsibly, but the confirmation of cases on the islands has provided a timely reality check, causing us all to pause and reflect on our behaviour in a way which may have a collective benefit. By sticking to the safest interpretation of the guidance, we give ourselves every chance of protecting our community and services from the worst impacts of the virus until a vaccine can be rolled out on the islands. I know many of you are eager to know more, but please be patient. The NHS is fully aware of our circumstances and they are working extremely hard on our behalf to achieve the best outcomes for Scilly. They will contact you directly to let you know when you can get vaccinated.
If you are, understandably, experiencing anxiety related to coronavirus, please make sure you seek support. Your GP is the best first point of contact on this and the NHS also provides some excellent straightforward advice on how to access mental health services. I encourage everyone, whether you are struggling or not, to have a look at this NHS webpage, as it may help you or someone you care about. I know that many people find social media exhausting and anxiety-inducing, so if you don’t access social media, or you are considering reducing your social media consumption, you can continue to receive council news directly to your email inbox. Subscribe to our email service by inputting your details here.
The Local Outbreak Engagement Board (LOEB) met on Tuesday morning. You can listen to the full audio recording here. Our Chief Executive attended, alongside representatives from the police and Public Health, to provide updates and answer questions from members of the Board. They touched on a number of issues from vaccinations to travel for health appointments. One thing that is worth highlighting is the reminder from the police that opinion on social media does not always tally with the reality on the ground. They encouraged anyone with genuine concerns about breaches of COVID-19 restrictions to report them directly to the local police team and confirmed that they follow up on every call received, but that comments on Facebook do not constitute an official report. You can contact the police by calling 101 (though you must still call 999 in the case of an emergency).
In my last message, I emphasised the fact that people could still legitimately travel for work purposes in line with the current government guidance. At the time of writing this is still the case. However, if there is a way to minimise your permitted travel or social contact at the moment, I ask that you consider doing so until the risk to our community has reduced. Little changes in behaviours could make a big difference to how the islands are impacted by the virus.
I’ve said a lot about what people should or should not be doing, but I realise it’s not always that simple. Everyone is living under different circumstances and having to make their own individual sacrifices. We never know what other people are facing in their own lives and what their decisions are based on and it’s important not to make assumptions about others, even though emotions may be running high. That said, none of us should be tempted to find grey areas or ways around the guidance and should instead focus on the spirit of the rules that have been put in place. We can all imagine scenarios that might technically be permitted, but as the government has recently emphasised, every flex of the lockdown rules could prove fatal, so just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
One particular situation many people are facing is having to deal with an existing health condition during the pandemic. For the avoidance of doubt, our Director of Public Health has made it clear that you should continue to attend urgent medical appointments. If you are in any doubt about whether you should travel to an appointment, your GP will be able to advise on how best to balance the risks. On this point, please also keep in mind the stress of these decisions for people having to make them. Whatever choice someone makes about their own healthcare must be respected. Your own behaviour should already be making it possible for people within our community to make such important trips safely.
I will leave you this week with the words of our Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty: “Any single unnecessary contact you have with someone is a potential link in a chain of transmission that will lead to a vulnerable person.” It is up to all of us to keep reconsidering our actions and making the decision to do the right thing at every opportunity. This, at the very least, is always within our control. So let’s do what we can, whilst keeping in mind that our community has: kept the virus at bay for most of the year; successfully managed the return of tourists during the latter part of the summer season; contained the first round of cases announced in September; and contained the most recently announced cases. We have a long history of adapting to challenges on these islands - we are not beaten yet, and we don’t intend to be!
With my heartfelt thanks for all you continue to do to support us in our efforts to keep Scilly safe,
Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly