The following is an update from Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, published today regarding fighting coronavirus in Buckinghamshire.
17 March 2021
It’s really positive to have all Buckinghamshire children back in their classrooms and we’re continuing to see COVID-19 infection rates fall across Buckinghamshire too. Whilst the lockdown has been a big factor in declining infection rates, we are also seeing a rapid fall in the rates for the over 65 year olds, which is most likely due to the roll out of the vaccine. Nearly 210,000 vaccine doses have now been given in Buckinghamshire, a fantastic achievement in this short space of time. Nevertheless, there is about half the adult population of the county still to be vaccinated. Therefore, we need to remain vigilant as restrictions ease to prevent a ‘third spike’ later in the summer or early winter.
The restrictions will change from Monday 29 March. From that date ‘stay at home’ will be lifted and we will be able to meet others in groups of up to six, or as two households, socially distanced, outdoors only including in private gardens. I’m sure many of us are thinking ahead to Easter and while we all deserve a break and an enjoyable time, please make sure you keep within the guidance, which doesn’t change a great deal other than to allow more people to meet safely outdoors as the school holidays start. You can read more about the full roadmap on the Government’s website.
Vaccination appointments are now open for anyone aged 50 or aboveand people can book their jab themselves via the national system without having to wait to be contacted – the details are on the NHS website. Some people are being alerted that they can book their vaccine via text, so while it’s important to be on the look out for scams, please be assured that this is genuine. If in doubt do check with someone you trust. The NHS will never ask you for money or for your bank details and you do not have to pay for your vaccine
If you are the main carer of someone who is elderly or disabled and at high risk if they catch COVID-19 you can also get your vaccine. If you are an unpaid carer make sure you register with Carers Bucks so you don’t miss your invitation to get your appointment.
There has been a lot of publicity this week about some precautionary pausing on vaccine use by some European governments. Please do not let this put you off having the vaccination when offered. Both vaccines licensed for use in the UK have been through rigorous safety checks. Millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been received in the UK following months of clinical trials, and the overall safety experience with both vaccines is as expected. Serious adverse reactions are rare and are in line with other types of routinely used vaccines. Please do take up the offer of your vaccine when it’s your turn, as the risks presented by COVID-19 are far greater than that of any vaccine. Importantly the World Health Organisation continues to advocate use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as does the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which has said that there was “no indication” the jab causes blood clots. If you need any further reassurance then please read the latest response from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which approves all medicines for use in the UK, including the COVID-19 vaccine. You can also read more about the COVID-19 vaccine on the NHS website.
New support grants for businesses
I know many of our local businesses are facing ongoing hardship because of the COVID-19 restrictions. I’m pleased to be able to say that we’ve directly helped nearly 3,000 local businesses through our “Additional Restrictions” grant scheme. While other councils have sat on their funding, we’ve focussed on trying to get every penny out to help local businesses, meaning we’ve paid out more than £14 million to date for this grant, one of the best rates in the country. We are currently awaiting news from the Government of any further funding for this scheme, and we hope to announce details on our website soon.
In total Buckinghamshire Council has spent over £100m on all business support grants. Please look out for news of the new Business Restart grants scheme that should be opening from next week. The ‘Local Restrictions’ grant scheme is also extended until 31 March – you can read all about the help available on the business support section of our website.
Regular COVID-19 testing for school communities
All households with someone regularly going into school – including staff and pupils of all ages – can access regular asymptomatic testing, and I urge you to take advantage of this. The more cases we can pick up, the easier it will be to stop any potential outbreaks in their tracks and ultimately, this will help us keep more pupils in the classroom and infection rates down.
These households can test regularly by either visiting a site in person or collecting some test kits to do at home. If it’s hard to travel to a test site then you can get test kits sent to your home. To find out more, including locations of test sites, check the information on the Government’s website.
Anyone who has regularly been using our Buckinghamshire rapid test sites please note the opening hours have changed –
please check our website for up to date information. Anyone who is leaving their home to work or volunteer can get tested regularly through our four rapid testing sites, so please use this service and help us keep everyone safe.
Stay safe and keep going
As I said earlier, until the vaccine roll-out is complete, we need to continue to take care. Also remember that the vaccine is only about 90% effective and not everyone has taken up the offer of vaccination. Therefore, the risk of transmission and illness, whilst reducing, still exists. Please continue to do your bit to stay safe. Where possible, keep the windows open and let plenty of fresh air in and let’s all keep doing what we can to move the roadmap forward. Every action makes a difference and moves us in the right direction, from wearing your mask to keeping your distance, shopping alone, washing your hands and carrying your sanitiser and avoiding social contacts where you can. Please get your vaccine when your turn comes.
Because of the forthcoming local elections on Thursday 6 May, the next email updates you get won’t come direct from me, but please be assured we will continue to give you all the information you need about the pandemic as we move forwards and hopefully continue to progress through the Government’s plans to open things back up again.
Keep looking after yourselves and each other,
|Martin TettLeader of Buckinghamshire Council|