Opinion: ‘Hopeful for the weeks ahead’

Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich gives his view on the council and news and issues affecting you...

Saturday, 6th March 2021, 5:53 am
An example of rapid Covid testing

When you look at the daily Covid-19 data you cannot help but feel hopeful for the weeks and months ahead.

Thanks to all our hard work, the rates of Covid-19 are reducing, albeit slower than we would like in Peterborough.

If we want to reach the key milestones that the Prime Minister has outlined in his road map and be able to see more of the people we love and do more of the things we used to enjoy, we have to make sure we maintain our efforts.

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Firstly, we need everyone to keep following the rules – remember we’re still in lockdown, so that means only going out for essential reasons. When you do go out, wash your hands regularly, social distance and wear a mask. Self-isolate if you are asked to or if you have symptoms.

Secondly, when you’re offered a vaccine, please accept it. Getting a large majority of people vaccinated is a key part of the grand plan to get life back to normal.

And finally, we need everyone to make use of the fantastic testing system we now have in place locally. That means testing if you’re leaving home regularly, for school, work or other reasons, and testing if you have symptoms.

This week we opened a second rapid testing site in Peterborough to make it even easier for people leaving home regularly, who don’t have symptoms, to get a test. The site, at the Nene Valley Community Centre in Candy Street, Woodston, is open Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8pm. There is also a site at St Mark’s Church in the city centre. To book a test visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/rapidtesting

In addition, lots of businesses are offering their employees rapid tests at the workplace. The latest is Peterborough Limited, which runs many essential services including waste and recycling collections and street cleaning.

The pandemic has been particularly tough for Peterborough Limited as if one refuse crew member tests positive for Covid, the rest of the crew must be sent home to self-isolate, making it a challenge to stay on top of collections.

All of Peterborough Limited’s frontline staff are now being offered twice weekly lateral flow testing at the Fengate depot which has been transformed into an efficient rapid testing centre. Tests are being carried out by redeployed Vivacity staff from gyms and leisure centres who have been fully trained up.

This will identify workers carrying the virus unknowingly, so they can self-isolate and reduce the risk of infection being passed on to others. It will also help the team to plan around positive cases and keep services running smoothly.

We have written to businesses which employee people who cannot work from home, offering them the opportunity to set up testing programmes on their own premises and highlighting the rapid testing sites already up and running.

I would urge businesses to get involved with this - we are happy to test our own staff so please do the same and get your staff tested.

In a further boost to our rapid testing plans, households with children in school, childcare or support bubbles can also now test themselves twice a week from their own home, using testing kits which can be collected or ordered. To find out where you can collect test kits, visit: https://find-covid-19-rapid-test-sites.maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/

If you’re unable to collect, you can order online to be delivered to your home: https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests or by calling 119

So please, continue to do your bit. We must continue fighting for our city, so that we can emerge from lockdown in the best possible position and ensure the city can continue to thrive once life gets back to ‘normal’.

Monday sees schools and colleges re-opening their gates to all children and young people.

Our schools have done a fantastic job since the outbreak, coping remarkably well with unprecedented challenges. Parents, guardians and carers have also played an amazing part, so my sincere thanks to everyone involved.

The classroom is the best place for children to be and since the government announced the re-opening date, we have actively worked with schools to ensure they are Covid safe spaces.

Jonathan Lewis, our Director for Education, recently held a session with around 400 school staff to go through the latest government guidance and help prepare for the weeks ahead. I have every confidence that things will run smoothly.

Whilst most people are sticking to the lockdown guidelines and keeping themselves and others safe, a small minority are sadly not.

When this happens, the council and our partners look to act. One such example is the owner of a car wash in Ivatt Way who continued to operate during lockdown and has been served with a £1,000 fixed penalty notice.

The owner had previously been instructed to close his business after officers from our Covid compliance team discovered him breaching restrictions in November and again in January. On receiving further information that the business was still operating, the team decided enough was enough and issued the fine.

Times are tough for businesses right now, but we take breaches of Covid legislation extremely seriously. Our approach has always been to engage, advise and work together to gain compliance, with enforcement a last resort.

Finally, Monday marks international Commonwealth Day, which the council normally celebrates with a civic procession and flag raising ceremony.

We won’t be able to do this due to the pandemic, but we are holding a virtual service on our Youtube and Facebook channels from 10am. You can watch it live or back in full afterwards and please do if you have the chance, it’s always an uplifting event.