Council Leader's latest weekly update
Posted on 14 Jan 2021
So much has happened since I wrote my last column. With an alarming rise in Covid cases, particularly in some areas of the country that had very low numbers of positive cases before the festive period, restrictions have escalated to an official lockdown, with those who were previously shielding issued with new guidance.
The reopening of schools has been pushed back until at least the start of February but quite possibly much longer.
We’ve had a third vaccine approved but there are all sorts of questions being asked about the supply chain and when the programme will be rolled out.
There will so many questions that local people have that I couldn’t possibly answer with the information that I have but what I can tell our local communities is that North Ayrshire Council is fully up and running and working to support you all through these challenging times.
Our Community Hubs remain operational and are there to support those who need help, including those who were previously shielding. If you need help, with food, heating, prescriptions or other matters please reach out to your local hub.
Remote learning is up and running having started on Monday. Schools will be using a variety of platforms to support remote learning and we know that back in March the digital divide was a serious problem – that’s why North Ayrshire Council very quickly purchased digital devices and provided internet connectivity to families who didn’t have them. We acted well before central government said they would provide devices and even now, we have provided many more than the government has provided funding for. We have worked with schools to identify those families who needed devices and we believe we have reached most of them but if anyone is still left without a device or an internet connection please get in touch.
Support is available key workers with children who will be supported this time in their own schools rather than central locality childcare hubs. Children attending school are being given the same schoolwork as those learning from home, with class teachers working from home to run remote learning.
On the vaccination front, over 9000 people in Ayrshire have been given their first dose of the vaccine to date, with the first priority groups such as care home staff and residents, frontline NHS workers and inpatients being vaccinated. The programme to vaccinate the next priority groups is underway, and this week will see the first people in the over 80’s group receiving their first dose at their local GP practice. Over the coming weeks the vaccination programme will rollout across every GP practice and everybody over the age of 80 will be invited to make an appointment – I would encourage everyone to take part, the vaccination is our way out of this pandemic.
The vaccination programme is going to be the largest public health operation in any of our lifetimes and as supplies increase, and the groups being vaccinated widen, there will be a huge call on public sector resources. North Ayrshire Council will play our part in the delivery of the vaccination programme, both in terms of staff and offering the use of council buildings if and where required in our localities.
It is fair to say that these are very challenging times for our health board. People will have seen reports that NHS Ayrshire and Arran’s capacity is stretched, not only in terms of beds but also staffing wise with people being asked to self-isolate. The current challenges for our local hospitals should act as an encouragement for all of us to follow the guidance and help ease the pressure on the local health service.
After 10 months, I know it feels like we are back at square one with the lockdown. In many respects, this lockdown will be even more challenging because of the cold weather and dark nights. We came through the first lockdown together, by harnessing a true sense of community where we looked out for all those around us. We can do it again if we again look after each other and follow the guidance.