Chairman's update on the coronavirus pandemic - 8 January 2021

This week has been a peculiar one for our islands, having gone from Tier 1 to national lockdown in an instant. Whether you were expecting change to this extent on account of the escalating national picture, or whether this came as a total shock, I’m aware the news has generated mixed feelings and a degree of confusion once again. The main thing to remember is that just because we were in Tier 1 earlier this week does not mean the lockdown restrictions apply any less to the islands and our community than anywhere else in the country. You must abide by the latest guidance: it is there to protect us all and help to ensure that our precious health services can survive the widespread impacts of this pandemic. Whilst we have been lucky so far, the fact remains that there are now more cases on the mainland than in the previous wave and hospitals throughout the country are under intense pressure. The greater prevalence of the virus in the region, including Cornwall, is an important reminder that we can’t simply assume that Scilly will be untouched by this latest wave and should be doing everything we can to keep one another safe and protect the NHS.

Please remember that 1 in 3 people with the virus do not experience any symptoms. This means that people can unknowingly transmit the virus and are at increased risk of doing so if they do not follow the basic advice to stay at home (unless undertaking an exempt activity), wash their hands, maintain social distance and wear a mask required or where distancing is difficult. As we are all spending much more time indoors at this time of year, particularly in lockdown periods, it is also recommended to keep inside spaces well-ventilated to reduce the risk of transmission.

A joint message from the local police team, Isles of Scilly Travel and the Council was issued this week about the work being undertaken to help keep the islands safe and comply with national government guidance relating to travel at this time. The guidance states that you must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse (for example, for work or education purposes). This means that people can still travel between the islands and the mainland legitimately, but that anyone currently on Scilly for a holiday (including those staying in second homes) must return to their primary residence as soon as is practical. The message also points out that any residents having to travel to the mainland for essential reasons must take every precaution to mitigate the risk to themselves and others.  You can read the message in full here.

I know there has been some confusion on the above points, so I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that you should expect to see some movement of people for the reasons set out in the exemptions - and that this is very much necessary, in both directions. Obvious examples include staff supporting key services on the islands and contractors ensuring that infrastructure is maintained, that people’s homes remain safe, and that businesses are able to continue to work where permitted or to prepare for reopening when they can. This list is not exhaustive, so please do not assume that people are breaking the rules just because you don’t recognise them. It’s also important to recognise that these people are often carrying out travel at some risk to themselves and I’m sure you would agree that we are grateful as a community for their efforts in keeping the islands running.

Obviously, we expect anyone travelling to the islands for these purposes to have carried out a full risk assessment for the activity and their time on the islands. I ask that you trust the police and other partners to carry out checks and that you treat people moving to and from the island with the same respect and courtesy as during non-lockdown periods.  

The economic consequences of another lockdown are not to be underestimated and many of us will be facing having to shut or adapt your businesses once again, with knock-on effects for those you employ. If you are struggling financially and are worried about providing food for your family, heating your home or paying bills, I urge you to contact the officers below about how to access government funding or perhaps how the Hardship Fund may be able to help:

Matt Davis, Social Worker: 01720 424454 / 07810 881381 or
Rachel Guy, Housing and Tenant Liaison Officer: 01720 424441 / 07925 360405 or
Jennie Woodcock, Early Help Assistant, Children's Social Care: 01720 424483 / 07917 198334 or
You can find out more about the government’s various financial support offers by visiting the website. The most recent National Lockdown: Stay at Home guidance contains a section on where to find financial support information. You can view it at the following link

I’m sorry to have to say that the police have contacted us this week to warn that local postcodes are currently being targeted by telephone scammers purporting to be police officers or bank staff, in an attempt to get members of the public to give out their bank details. Please remember that genuine police officers and bank staff will never ask for your PIN, bank card details or cash over the phone. If you receive what you believe to be a suspicious call, hang up immediately. If using a landline, you should either allow 5 minutes to pass before calling the police on 101 from the same phone, or use another phone to report the incident. If you believe you may already have given your details in this way, please call 101 to report the incident and get further advice. The local police team are always happy to provide advice on how to deal with unwanted calls, so please do not hesitate to contact them if you are concerned.

I was really impressed this week at the speed with which those working in education and early years provision were able to adapt their plans for the school and nursery. Thank you to all of those working hard to ensure that our islands’ children and young people (along with their families) are supported to access education and childcare services safely, even when this means working differently at extremely short notice.

Similarly, I am aware of a great deal of work being undertaken by our NHS colleagues both locally and on the mainland, to ensure that the vaccine roll-out programme takes our islands’ particular needs into account. You will hear from the health services directly when there is action to be taken in relation to vaccines, so please be patient and wait to be contacted. 

As you may be aware the Porthcressa playpark is now open and can be used during the current lockdown. Thank you to those staff who worked in awful weather to get this open over the Christmas period. Parents are asked to follow the COVID risk minimisation guidance on the posters at the entrance and ensure that older children do the same. We hope to be able to reopen the Garrison playpark sometime next week, but please keep an eye on the Children’s Services Facebook page for further updates.

You will notice that some of the Council services which were suspended in previous lockdowns are also permitted to continue this time around - for example, the library is still offering certain services and details of ongoing parent and child support groups can be found on the Children’s Services Facebook page. So keep a close eye on the service pages of our website for updates and don’t assume that a service you rely on is closed just because we are being asked to stay at home: it may be something covered by an exemption in the guidance. As ever, if you have any questions about individual Council services you can call our enquiries team on 0300 1234 105 (option 5). That said, if you do not need to leave your home for a specific, permitted reason, please continue to “Stay home, protect our NHS and save lives” until the current restrictions are eased.

With my very best wishes for a healthy and (soon to be) happier New Year.

Robert Francis
Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly

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Publishing date: 
Friday, 8 January, 2021