Borough pledges to turn things around and lower COVID-19 restrictions

16 October 2020

A rallying call is being issued for action in Cheshire West and Chester to reverse the trend of rising COVID-19 infection rates and bring the borough out of restriction.

Cheshire West and Chester’s COVID-19 Outbreak Board is calling for everyone to play their part in turning the situation around after the borough was classified as ‘high’ in the Government’s new Local COVID-19 Alert System.

The board has issued a joint statement to highlight its position and urge the borough to pull together following the new restrictions.

Cllr Louise Gittins, chair of the board and Leader of the Council, said: “This joint statement is cross-party and cross-sector, supported by the Council and representatives of the NHS, schools, community organisations and business sector.

“We are calling for enhanced government support for the businesses affected by these new restrictions, to save jobs and livelihoods.  But we also need to re-double our work to prevent the further spread of this terrible virus, by taking local action.  

“Through simple steps like washing your hands regularly, covering your face, keeping your distance from other households, and following the new regulations, we can get out of this situation and get back to the things we love.

“We can all play our part to turn this around.”

The Board meets regularly, with its meetings webcast and open to the public.  

The next meeting to review progress in tackling the virus is at 3pm on 20 October.

For more information about the board visit the Council's website.

The statement follows.
 

A call for action: We Can All Play Our Part to Turn This Around 

Our residents, businesses, our community organisations and local services continue to play their part to save lives and livelihoods. We applaud their commitment, resilience and sacrifice in the most challenging of circumstances. We are committed to showcasing these inspiring actions and we will remain positive throughout this crisis.

Despite our best efforts, the weekly number of positive cases in our borough has quadrupled over the past four weeks. This upward trend continues. But there is nothing inevitable about our situation and this trend. If we work together and are determined, we can turn this around. With coordinated local action and the continued support of our communities, enhanced by the right powers, and resources, we believe that we can reverse the current upward trend. 

This reinforces the decision we made on 28 September to request further support, additional resources and restrictions from the Government to bring the virus under control. 

The Government has now put legal restrictions in place in our area to prevent household mixing indoors.  While we have avoided the most significant restrictions, we have been classified as a high alert area. We reluctantly support this change, to help push the virus back and hopefully avoid the need for further restrictions. But we need this to be as short as possible. Our shared goal is to reduce the trend of increasing infections, and ultimately to reverse it.  We will then be in a position to free Cheshire West and Chester from these additional restrictions.  This approach is the most effective way to protect lives, jobs, businesses and our way of life.

We are taking local accountability and playing our part. Our outbreak management plan is being fully implemented. Over the last few weeks we have: 
  • engaged with 750 businesses to review their risk assessments, staff procedures, social distancing measures and their plans for a staged and graduated approach to reopening
  • undertaken 500 telephone surveys of vulnerable or high-risk settings such as early years, hospitality, supported living, children’s homes, and factories. High risk cases identified are reviewed by public health staff and environmental health and followed up, if necessary (or on request) by a site visit by an Environmental Health Officer 
  • identified high risk areas such as houses in multiple occupation to work with landlords to provide appropriate support and guidance.This has led to the production of an information pack for landlords and work with the University of Chester ahead of the return of students
  • established a new community testing service for housebound residents
  • embedded strong infection control arrangements across all 85 care homes in the borough 
  • delivered scenario planning for schools, colleges and universities to manage outbreaks and ensure continuity of education
  • provided a dedicated support line for schools through to the local Health protection Team which has been highly supportive in allowing Headteachers to make informed decisions and how to respond to potential positive cases effectively in order to keep their schools open
  • recruited over 300 community champions to work with local people to ensure they have the right information and support
  • worked extensively with the community and voluntary sector to provide support to those most in need and to engage local people in supporting local communities 
  • been selected (as one of just 12 Councils) to work in collaboration with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to support businesses to be COVID secure.  
All of these actions are underpinned by extensive local communications and grassroots engagement to provide residents and businesses with access to the advice and support they need. 

We know that further regulations will have a significant impact on our local economy, in particular our restaurants, bars, pubs and cultural venues.  This also extends to the services that rely heavily on the sector, such as food and drink suppliers, taxi drivers, hotels and other venues.  We will do all we can to support these businesses and the people who work in them. We will:
  • support a multi-channel campaign to showcase our town centres as safe and welcoming, driving footfall and patronage particularly in the run up to Christmas
  • provide flexible solutions and support for businesses to operate successfully in a COVID-secure way (through extension of pedestrianised areas, guidelines to support outside hospitality including alfresco service and a waiving of the alfresco licence fee until 30/9/21)
  • advocate for our businesses who want us to make the case to Government for a more extensive support, including access to a furlough scheme, providing vital financial support to retain viable organisations and employment
  • maintain a web portal that provides the very latest information on guidelines, as well as information on existing grants, support programmes and advice through the growth hub and other agencies.
We also recognise the need to support the mental wellbeing of our residents during these unprecedented times. We will:
  • continue mental health awareness campaigns such as be Kind to Your Mind and Let’s Keep Talking
  • promote our Live Well Cheshire West website -a direct point of reference to find local services available to support mental health and wellbeing
  • Provide access to free mental health training to our businesses
  • Promote our urgent mental health helpline supported by NHS colleagues 
  • Help our community and voluntary sector make the case for funding to community organisations that support mental wellbeing
  • Promote our Inspire Cheshire West website as a place for communities and organisations to share good news stories and advice to get through difficult times.
We will play our part at the local level but we are also calling for additional support from Government, to give us the powers and resources we need to implement a more effective test and trace system. This could be a lot more effective with greater local control and needs to be at the heart of our response. Local community organisations and services also need further resources to reach people in need. Local businesses need extra financial support. We seek a response to these requests and stand ready to work alongside our MPs to engage constructively with ministers to agree an appropriate package for our borough.

But this is not just about local and national government. Above all we continue to work alongside our communities to play their part to turn this around. Through simple actions we can make a massive difference and lift these restrictions. Personal actions will reduce your risk but also the risk to more vulnerable members of the community. 

We ask that you do not mix households, you maintain social distancing and you wash your hands. Remember ‘hands, face, space’. We also ask you to continue to look out for your neighbours, to support your local shops and restaurants and be kind to each other. 
Together we can all play our part to turn this around.
 
Councillor Louise Gittins (Chairman)
Councillor Karen Shore
Councillor Val Armstrong
Councillor Margaret Parker
Councillor Lynn Gibbon
Andrew Lewis (Chief Executive of Cheshire West and Chester Council)
Ian Ashworth (Director of Public Health)
Gary Cliffe (Voluntary Sector Representative) 
Lesley Appleton (Health Sector Representative)
Gwydion Rhys (Health Sector Representative)
Eryl Edwards (Business Sector Representative)
Nicola Dunbar (Business Sector Representative)
Rob Pullen (Education Sector Representative)

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