UPDATE: On 19 December, the day after this Chairman's update was published, the Prime Minister announced significant changes to the Christmas COVID restrictions. The guidance on 'Making a Christmas bubble with friends and family' has been updated following this announcement. You must familiarise yourself with the changes if you are considering forming a Christmas bubble. The most significant change to note is that Christmas bubbles are now restricted to Christmas day only. Do not stay overnight and keep your visits as short as possible. If you choose not to form a Christmas bubble, you must continue to follow the rules in your area. In a tier 1 area this would mean that you can see others inside a private dwelling in a group of no more than six, provided that they too are from a tier 1 area and have not formed a Christmas bubble.
THE CHAIRMAN'S UPDATE BELOW WAS WRITTEN PRIOR TO THE ABOVE UPDATE: CHRISTMAS BUBBLES ARE NOW RESTRICTED TO CHRISTMAS DAY ONLY
Following the government’s tiers review on Wednesday, I am pleased to confirm that the islands remain in Tier 1: Medium Alert. This is welcome news once again, but I must emphasise the point made following the first announcement to this effect: ‘just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you necessarily should.’
I cannot overstate how important it is to keep our guard up. As we’ve previously highlighted, it’s impossible for us to know with 100% accuracy whether the virus is present on the islands at any given time. This is because anyone could develop symptoms or be an asymptomatic carrier at any time. Please be assured, however, that your Public Health and local teams are well-practised in all aspects of the testing process and are diligent in their response to every suspected case and contact. The team have got you this far, please trust that they will continue to do what they do best and work to keep the islands safe. They will let you know if any further action needs to be taken at any stage over the Christmas period, but at the time of writing, all they need the public to do is to continue to follow the government guidance and act responsibly. Listen out for official advice rather than rumour and if in doubt, consider whether your current behaviour would keep you and your loved ones safe if an outbreak did occur.
I am writing this following an announcement from government that the relaxation of the restrictions over Christmas will continue, so it will still be possible for you to form a Christmas Bubble between 23 and 27 December, should you feel the need to do so. However, you may have noticed this week that government has been echoing the messages from Public Health and strongly urging people to consider the risks of increasing their social contact. They have also updated their Christmas Bubble guidance to reflect this change in tone. The Prime Minister acknowledged that the coronavirus situation is worse now than government had hoped it would be when they set the Christmas restrictions. He maintains that people should decide for themselves whether forming a Christmas Bubble is an appropriate or sensible action to take, but there have been increased calls for the public to consider the potential impact on vulnerable people and to really weigh up whether their plans for the festive period are proportionate to the inevitable increase in risk. Please remember that this can be a silent disease: 1 in 3 people do not display symptoms but can still pass it on.
We have recently received some comments on our social media platforms about the legality of the government restrictions and Public Health advice that we amplify as a Council. For the avoidance of doubt, the Council relays advice and guidance from the Government on COVID issues but anyone wishing to find out more information about the legislation / laws relating to coronavirus can find full details here. It is the responsibility of every individual to keep themselves informed of the most up-to-date rules and ensure they are not breaking the law.
I’m sure most of you will have heard that Normandy Swimming Pool will reopen from 21 December, with a Christmas Holiday timetable in place. This is really excellent news that I know has been gratefully received by our community. I would like to offer my thanks to everyone involved in prioritising this work to achieve a reopening in time for Christmas. You can read more about it here.
Progress has also been made on the playparks this week. I understand that the required parts for both the Garrison and Porthcressa playparks are in transit and expected on the islands any day. I must repeat my plea to families not to use the playparks until they have been formally reopened. We will make an announcement as soon as the necessary work has been undertaken.
Councillors Jonathan Smith and Steve Watt, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Climate Emergency Working Group respectively, issued an update on the work of the group this week. You can read it here.
In other exciting news, the islands have been the subject of considerable press activity relating to drone trials recently. Two different companies undertook successful drone trials on the mainland-Scilly route within quick succession, which marks a positive step towards the possibility of adding resilience to our freight options in the long-term. You can read more about both trials and how this development may influence island services in the future at the following links:
This will be my last Chairman’s update before the Christmas break. I am certainly looking forward to taking the opportunity to relax and re-energise over Christmas and I very much hope that you are all able to do the same. Please be assured that plans are in place to mobilise the relevant teams in the event an urgent response is required at any point over the Christmas period. I will resume my updates in the New Year. We have also set up an email subscription service to enable residents to receive the Council’s news directly to their inbox. If you would like to subscribe to this service, please follow this link and input your details.
With my very best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year,
Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly