Chairman's update on the coronavirus pandemic - 25 June 2021

As this is my first update since the election in May, I would like to begin by thanking the community for re-electing me as a Member of Council, and also to my fellow Members for choosing me to represent them as Chairman once again. It really is a great honour to represent my community and I would encourage anyone wishing to see a thriving local democracy with active community engagement to put themselves forward as a candidate at the next opportunity. Being a councillor on the Isles of Scilly is not as thankless a task as it may sometimes appear from the outside - and this month, in particular, I have lots of news to share about the good work the Council is doing to keep the islands safe, support the local economy, improve the visitor experience and enhance the quality of life for all residents. 

Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to the most recent message from our Director of Public Health, Rachel Wigglesworth. This message was published on 18 June and contains a great deal of useful information, which you should take the time to read in full. However, the points I would like to highlight to you now are as follows:

  • Get PCR tested if you have symptoms. If you experience coronavirus symptoms you must self-isolate immediately and get a PCR (lab tested) test. Consult your doctor as to whether you should also get a PCR test when experiencing other symptoms. Please note that from Friday 25 June to Monday 28 June, we have limited resource to run the usual testing phone line or email address in Devon. If you need a PCR test during that time please (where at all possible) email to ensure getting a prompt response.
  • Make twice-weekly rapid lateral flow testing a part of your routine. Government has asked that everyone who does not have symptoms begins regular rapid lateral flow testing as soon as possible, if they have not already done so. This advice applies to visitors to the islands, who are asked to take a test before travelling to the islands and to continue regular testing during their stay. Find out how to access rapid lateral flow testing on Scilly on our Coronavirus symptoms and testing webpage. Employers wishing to help their staff access regular lateral flow tests can email for more information on how best to do this.
  • Get the vaccine as soon as you are offered it. Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. The offer of the vaccine does not expire, so if you have not taken it up when you were originally offered it, it’s not too late! Please contact your GP if you have changed your mind about getting vaccinated and would like to book a jab. Employers can help any unvaccinated staff arriving on the islands from the mainland to access coronavirus vaccines by encouraging them to register with the local GP. This offer is open to all unvaccinated workers, regardless of how long they intend to stay on the islands.
  • Use the NHS Test and Trace app to check-in to business premises. The data the app provides is extremely helpful for the Test and Trace effort. If you cannot use the app, provide your contact details in another way.

In every one of my Chairman’s updates since the beginning of the pandemic, I have underlined the importance of following the national guidance in relation to everything to do with coronavirus (including the ‘Hands, Face, Space, Let Fresh Air In’ measures which are still vital to preventing the spread of the virus). As Rachel mentions in her update, this season on Scilly is not like last summer and there are additional reasons to stick to the safest interpretation of the guidance and behave cautiously. Not least of these is the high transmissibility (and the rising number of cases) of the Delta variant in Cornwall. 

If you, or someone you know will be visiting the islands this summer, please ask them to read the Council’s advice for visitors when planning their trip. There are a number of things visitors can do to help us minimise the risk of spread and inevitable impact on our services and infrastructure. Please help us get this message out to regular visitors, as well as those who may be planning to visit for the first time. Our community is so grateful to everyone already doing everything they can to support the public health response.

In other major news this week, I am delighted to confirm that the Levelling Up Fund bid has now been submitted to government. If successful, the £48m bid would see the Council working closely with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, Tresco Estate, Duchy of Cornwall and Cornwall Council (as owners of Penzance Harbour) to acquire 3 new shipping vessels and complete the harbour works needed to support these new vessels and meet accessibility requirements. The bid was approved by Full Council on 10 June 2021 and you can read the full report and supporting documents on the Council website.

I believe this bid is our best chance of preserving and improving our lifeline shipping transport into the future, and I am grateful to the Council officers and our partners for working so effectively to finalise the bid at such short notice. I am also incredibly grateful to our MP, Derek Thomas, for recognising the needs of Scilly’s residents, businesses and visitors and for supporting this bid. It is expected that investment decisions will be made by government for this funding round by autumn 2021. 

Some of you may have heard that Lord Berkeley, a member of the Isles of Scilly Transport Board, has written to Government ministers urging them to reject our bid. I am personally extremely disappointed that Lord Berkeley has chosen to do this. You can see from the Council report and supporting documents (at the link above) that the bid as submitted was the only option that we could realistically support given the practical realities of the existing infrastructure and the extremely short timescale we were working to. I’m really excited by this bid and what it would mean for the islands - it’s a rare and exciting opportunity for us to make a real difference to everybody’s lives. Let’s hope that no lasting damage has been done.

It’s nice to be able to update you, as Chairman, once again and I hope to be able to continue these updates periodically throughout the year. Despite the difficulties around the pandemic, it is really heartening to see the streets full of happy visitors and the majority of businesses open once more. Scilly will recover from the pandemic stronger than ever and the Council will continue to support the community in doing so. We have lots of important work planned and are looking forward to sharing it with you all as soon as we can.

Keep yourselves and Scilly safe and enjoy summer in our precious islands.

Best wishes 

Robert Francis, Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly

Publishing date: 
Friday, 25 June, 2021