I’m pleased, once again, to begin on a positive note. The rollout of the vaccines programme on the islands has got off to a flying start, with our local GP reporting that the vast majority of the first doses for Tiers 1-4 have been completed. I have heard nothing but positive feedback from the public about the professionalism and efficiency of the local health team this week - thank you to all of those involved in the rollout for getting this stage done so quickly and safely.
The vaccine is safe, has been robustly tested and getting it is the best way to protect yourself from serious complications and hospitalisation. This also means it is the best way to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed. However, I must re-emphasize the Public Health message that having your vaccination should not change your behaviour in any way: it is vital that you continue to follow the latest guidance, stay at home, wash hands, maintain social distance, wear a face covering and let fresh air into enclosed spaces. This is because there is a delay before the vaccine offers protection and, even once you are protected yourself, the health service cannot guarantee that you won’t still be able to pass the virus on. Another point worth mentioning is that those who have been advised to shield should continue to do so even after they have received both doses, until further notice from the government.
Public Health have reported that, nationally, there may also be some confusion occurring at the point people are contacted and asked to self-isolate. Remember, if you are asked to self-isolate, you must do so with immediate effect: do not go for a run or pop to the shops first! If you are unprepared for self-isolation and need essential supplies, there is support available via the Local Incident Response Team. If you have any questions relating to self-isolation or COVID-19 in general, you should contact email@example.com.
As with other Local Authorities around the country, the Council of the Isles of Scilly will be making provision for community lateral flow testing in the near future. This does not mean that everyone will be able to access a lateral flow test, but it will be an important tool for our Public Health team to identify more asymptomatic cases among certain groups of eligible workers who are in contact with vulnerable people, than would otherwise be the case. Our local teams are working hard to establish the processes necessary to facilitate the rollout of this initiative on the islands and I will give an update on the details as soon as they have been established. In the meantime, please email any related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week we heard from government that 8 March is the earliest date schools in England could go back. I’d like to thank all of the staff at the school for continuing their hard work to keep everyone safe and ensure learning can continue. Well done, also, to those of you who are juggling home-schooling with other responsibilities. This is a difficult time for everyone, no matter what the individual circumstances, so let’s all continue to support each other as we all do what we believe is best for our families.
Whilst the vast majority of you are sticking to the rules no matter how hard they are to bear, I was extremely disappointed to hear that our local police team had to issue 9 Covid Fixed Penalty Notices this week to a group who chose to break the lockdown rules by having a late night party. I’d like to thank the police team for their swift response to this situation and you can read a statement from them at the end of this update.
Public Health have been clear that the evidence shows that lockdowns are effective in bringing down the rate of transmission, so whilst staying home can be extremely tough, it is reassuring to know that it is actually worth it. Of course, this is only true if your home is a safe place. Please remember that leaving your home is absolutely permitted in the case of an emergency, and that if you are suffering domestic abuse or sexual violence there are a number of ways you can get help on Scilly. You can contact Adult Social Care, the local police, the council housing team, your doctor, health visitor, school nurse, mental health nurse or midwife. All of them will support you. First Light provides specialist support to victims – male and female, adult and child – of sexual violence and domestic abuse in Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. Safer Futures Cornwall and Isles of Scilly is a domestic abuse and sexual violence advice service which can be accessed by calling 0300 777 4777 or visiting the First Light website. As always, if you are in immediate danger, please dial 999. If you ring 999 but can’t talk, make sure the Police know you are there by coughing or tapping the handset, or by dialling 55. Alternatively you can visit the Devon and Cornwall Police website. You are not alone.
Sadly, we have been made aware that some residents have received scam emails relating to the COVID-19 vaccination. Please be aware that the vaccine will always be free and the NHS will never:
- ask you for your bank account or card details.
- ask you for your PIN or banking password.
- arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
- ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.
Please remember to check your emails and text messages for signs of fraud before responding and visit the Action Fraud website for further information, including how to report scams. If you think you have inadvertently responded to a scam, you can contact the local police team (call 101) for specific advice.
In other Council news, you may be aware that our budget is set at this time of year. We will be holding a Public Meeting via conference call on 4 February, between 11am and 12.30pm. The conference call is open to all businesses and members of the community as Councillors want to hear your views on spending priorities for the coming financial year. I will say a few words about events over the past year and our Chief Executive, Paul Masters, will outline the challenges and focus for the year ahead.
To dial into the meeting call: 0203 443 6327 (phone conference ID 141477686#).
Please understand that this call may have a lot of participants on it, so we ask that anyone dialling in mutes their phone where possible, unless invited to speak. If there are any issues with particular lines, we may need to remove those lines from the call to ensure the meeting can proceed smoothly. A copy of the presentation slides can be viewed here. If you would like to ask a question for consideration at the meeting, please email your question to Councillor Fran Grottick, Lead Member for Finance, at Frances.Grottick@scilly.gov.uk. Alternatively, you can phone any of your councillors to ensure that your question is considered. If you do not have your councillors’ contact details, please call our enquiries line on 0300 1234 105 (option 5) and they will be able to provide them.
Please submit your questions (including your name) by noon on Wednesday, 3 February 2021 so we can consider them all ahead of the meeting. If you cannot attend the meeting but still wish to provide feedback based on the presentation slides, please make sure you send this to us no later than noon on Monday, 8 February 2021 so that we can consider any comments when finalising the budget. The budget will be taken to Full Council for approval on 18 February 2021.
Finally, I feel I cannot ignore a timely reminder from the past this week. It was Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, and I hope you all took the time, as I did, to reflect on the importance of remembering the horrific events of this time in our recent history, and the lessons we must continue to learn from them. It is vital that we listen to the survivors of the atrocities and their views on how we can avoid allowing history to repeat itself. So many of the survivors call for tolerance within our society. They ask us to recognise that differences between people do not mean that some are any more worthy than others. We need to remember this as we watch social divisions appear and deepen nationally and worldwide, and to keep asking ourselves what we can do to ensure our own behaviour doesn’t add to these tensions or allow them to take hold. Never has there been a time when it is more vital that we work together, look after each other and keep the bigger picture in mind. We are all human and don’t always behave perfectly, but it is our duty to always remind ourselves that we are not immune to the conditions which allowed the Holocaust to take place (and for people to turn a blind eye) and that a great many people across the world are facing no-less horrifying persecution today, simply for being who they are.
With my very best wishes
Robert Francis, Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly
A Statement from the Isles of Scilly Policing Team
The policing of our community throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically the regional and then national restrictions imposed, has been (and continues to be) a key priority for your local policing team.
The islands have been fortunate in that we have had very few confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the islands during the pandemic. I believe this is due to the hard work and diligence of all of our residents, businesses and partners. Since the introduction of the restrictions we have worked tirelessly to engage, explain and encourage everyone in the actions required to keep our fragile community safe. We are regularly meeting incoming flights to the islands and have been visiting premises which have been reported to us, or which we have suspected of potentially breaching restrictions.
The national restrictions imposed upon all of us have been in place for some time now and we are all well-versed in what we can and cannot do. Unfortunately, there are always a very small minority who feel those restrictions do not apply to them. As has been seen this week, these individuals will be dealt with swiftly and robustly. Individual Fixed Penalty Notices start at £200 for the first offence, doubling thereafter for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
With the recent introduction of the vaccination program across the Isles of Scilly, I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this does not mean a relaxation in the national restrictions that continue to apply. You can find further information regarding Covid-19 restrictions and guidance here.
I would like to thank all within our community and our partners for their ongoing support, management and compliance throughout this very challenging time for us all.
Sergeant Darren White
Isles of Scilly Policing Team