Opinion: ‘Reducing Covid spread still a top priority’

Wayne Fitzgerald, city council leader and Conservative group leader on Peterborough City Council writes...

Sunday, 12th September 2021, 1:45 pm
Vaccination rates are low in some parts of Peterborough.

Reducing the spread of Covid-19 locally remains our top priority and the next few weeks could be a crucial period in our battle against the virus.

Case rates in Peterborough have remained higher than the east of England and England averages as a whole and we expect rates to rise following the return of schools.

In some parts of the city vaccination rates are very low (20% lower than elsewhere in the country) and this puts more people at risk of serious illness.

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We are also starting to see more people in our hospitals, not as many as in January – when rates were this high - which is a real tribute to the vaccination programme.

Because not enough people have been vaccinated in the city this number will rise, and sadly people will die – ten people lost their lives with Covid in the city during August.

As part of our ongoing efforts to reduce the virus spread, we are holding a second Peterborough Summit meeting tomorrow with community leaders and representatives.

The aim is to reach out to our communities, particularly those where the vaccination rates are the lowest, offering support and discussing what else we can do to increase vaccine take-up.

We have been engaging with communities throughout the pandemic, sharing guidance, support and learnings to great effect, but there’s always more we can do.

We also need everyone to play their part, so once again, please get both doses of the vaccine if you have not already done so. And if you are double jabbed, it’s still vitally important to stay cautious while out and about.

There are pop-up vaccination sites in Peterborough, including a daily walk-in clinic at the City Care Centre and the East of England Showground.

You can also visit the many walk-in and pop-up clinics, with more dates and locations available every week. Up-to-date details of walk-in clinics can be found on www.thevaccinators.co.uk

I am extremely proud of the work we are doing to resettle Afghan refugees in Peterborough.

We are working with private sector landlords and local housing groups to resettle up to 100 refugees who are currently at risk in their home country.

Many people have asked why we are offering this support when others in our city are struggling for housing and have criticised our decision.

However, my response is clear. This is an international humanitarian crisis and as a nation we are being asked for help – I would feel guilty if we didn’t assist.

Let’s not forget that we owe a huge debt to those who have supported our overseas staff and our armed forces in Afghanistan. I understand that many won’t agree, but what is the alternative? We take difficult decisions every day and this is another one of them.

There are several ways you can help our resettlement scheme, whether you have a suitable property available or would like to donate furniture or smaller items. Please visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/residents/support-for-afghan-refugees to find out more.

Regular readers will be aware that tackling fly-tipping across the city is a key aim of mine.

I pledged to provide free bulky waste collections when I became leader to help address this issue, which I recognise is a big bugbear for many residents.

In an ideal world, all council parties would be working together on this, especially given the authority’s financial challenges. Instead, the council Labour Group leader frequently uses his weekly column to criticise me and the authority.

Last week he asked when we plan to introduce free bulky waste collections. Well, I am delighted to tell councillor Nawaz that the free bulky waste collections will launch on November 1.

It takes time to get these things off the ground, but we are there now and I’m confident this initiative will make a positive difference.

It’s been fantastic to watch the Paralympics in Tokyo over the past few weeks, the conclusion of which has certainly left a big gap in my TV viewing schedule!

I was particularly delighted to see the gold medal performances from our local athletes including James Fox in the rowing and Lauren Steadman in the triathlon – a big well done to both.

We are hoping to hold a reception for them in the Mayor’s Parlour when it is safe to do so.

As part of my ambition for the council to be even more open and transparent with our residents, I recently started a monthly session called ‘Ask the Leader’.

It’s an informal online meeting, giving residents a chance to put questions to myself and council officers on any issues that affect their daily lives.

You can submit questions for the next event, on Tuesday, September 28, to [email protected] and we will respond with details and a link to the meeting.