Stay alert, control the virus, save lives – and keep social distancing

Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council

Stay alert, control the virus, save lives – and keep social distancing

From the pictures we saw of various beaches and beauty spots – and what we saw in some of our own parks – some people seem to think everything is back to how it used to be. The truth is… it isn’t. We still need to observe the social distancing and frequent hand washing rules otherwise we might allow the virus to spread and create a second spike. We are at a critical point in this pandemic and what we do now will make a big difference to how fast we recover.

The recent relaxations mean you can now see more friends and family. From yesterday we can now spend time outdoors, including private gardens and other outdoor spaces, in groups of up to six people from different households, as long as we follow social distancing guidelines.

We need to follow the new rules around self-isolating immediately: get tested if we have any symptoms, and share information about contacts with NHS Test and Trace.  If we do not do this, we risk exposing more people to the virus and we’ll begin to see numbers start to rise again.

Despite what you may assume from the headlines, almost all of our schools have remained open throughout the lockdown for vulnerable children and children of keyworkers to attend.  As the lockdown progressed, we were able to provide education and support to an increasing number of our most vulnerable children. I hope, as more pupils return, this will continue.

In Solihull, 15 Primary schools (including Infant and Junior) and two special schools welcomed additional pupils from the eligible age groups yesterday, on top of those who have continued to attend throughout the lockdown.  From next Monday, we are expecting the remaining primary schools to open to more pupils. Our secondary schools are planning to open for years 10 and 12 from 15 June.

Throughout the discussions with schools, governors and teachers, our priority has been the safety of pupils and staff. Risk assessments have been carried out. All our efforts have been focused on reassuring parents and staff, that schools can allow more pupils in safely. It means schools will be very different places; pupils and parents will have to acclimatise to new safety measures.

We always knew it would take time to work through the necessary safety issues with schools and their leadership teams; we envisaged a phased return, rather than a ‘big bang’. This precautionary approach will, we hope, encourage parents to have the confidence in their schools to send their children back.

As more children in Solihull prepare to go back to school, we hope this short video will help them understand what to expect when they do return:

We will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Recently the government asked all local authority chief executives to submit a plan explaining the support they can offer to care homes during the pandemic.  We submitted Solihull’s plan on Friday and it’s published on our website here:

This plan is important. It explains how we are working with our NHS partners and the steps we’re taking together to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in care homes. It reflects on all the work we’ve been doing, and will do, to support our care homes now and in the future during the pandemic.

What strikes me, reading the plan, is the strength of our existing relationships with NHS partners, and with the care homes in the borough.  Great partnership working. Helping to keep people safe.

Our town and village centres will also have to be supported to welcome back shoppers and visitors, as well as continue to attract investment.  As part of our Economic Recovery Plan, we will be developing a series of centre recovery plans, working with Solihull BID and other stakeholders across the borough, for example in Solihull looking at allowing our outdoor markets to return safely.  Once more non-essential outlets can open, we will work with businesses and retailers to get the message out that we are again “Open for Business” as soon as this can be done safely. Work is also continuing on planning the Kingshurst Village Centre redevelopment as we prepare to submit an Outline Planning Application in the coming weeks.

Finally, I’m not sure what the coronavirus pandemic has done to people’s ideas about litter. I have received a lot of complaints from residents just appalled at how our parks and open spaces have been left by those using them over the weekend.

The amount of litter my teams are having to deal with is astonishing.  These colleagues have been working hard throughout this crisis and it is just not on that they should be having to put up with this.

We are emptying bins and cleaning areas more often, but to no avail. We need people to remember, if you make a mess or your dog does – clean it up and put the rubbish in the bins provided. If you can’t find an empty bin, take your rubbish home with you. Is that too much to ask? 

Let’s keep a safe and tidy borough. Please take rubbish home.

Stay alert, help control the virus, save lives – we don’t want a second spike!

Please take care

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council