Cllr Alan Jarrett has released a new message to residents, following a Coronavirus update.
I hope this message finds you well.
I am sure many of you will have seen or heard the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday night (21 February) regarding the end of Coronavirus restrictions and his plan for living with COVID.
The Prime Minister stressed in his announcement that it is only because levels of immunity are so high and deaths are below what would sadly be expected for this time of year, that restrictions are being lifted.
The last two years have been incredibly challenging but I am very proud of how Medway’s communities came together to support one another. Our resilience and community spirit has really shone through.
I would like to once again thank all those who all worked tirelessly together to support Medway’s most vulnerable residents. This includes our fantastic NHS, including our colleagues at Medway Maritime Hospital, primary care, vaccination and testing staff, care workers, our own council staff and partners in the voluntary and community sector.
We also continued to support local businesses and, thanks to the hard work of council officers, we distributed more than £114million in government grants.
To be clear, the pandemic is not over. Although the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test will end from tomorrow (Thursday, 24 February) government advice is that people should still stay at home and isolate for five days if they test positive.
Medway was the first local authority in the south east, and one of the first in England, to establish a symptom-free community testing programme. I am very proud of this achievement, which we know helped to reduce transmission and save lives throughout the pandemic.
We will continue to deliver our community testing programme right through to Thursday, 31 March, when the free universal testing programme will end. After this date we will adapt our approach to testing in Medway, in line with national guidance and local requirements.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister provided reassurances that from Friday, 1 April, free symptomatic testing would continue to be available for those people who are most vulnerable to Coronavirus. Free testing will also remain available for people with certain jobs, including social care staff. We await further guidance on testing availability for other workers. The Prime Minister also said that the government is working with retailers to ensure that residents will always be able to buy a test. For more information about how you can access testing, visit our website.
In Medway we will also make sure we have the ability to ramp up our testing capability quickly should the need arise. We must however, rally together once again as we learn to live with COVID. After Friday, 1 April, if you have COVID symptoms it still remains important that you are considerate towards others and exercise personal responsibility, like you would if you had flu.
Vaccination is key to protecting our way of life and I would encourage everyone who is eligible, to get vaccinated and have their booster, if they haven’t done so already. On Monday, the government also announced a new spring booster campaign for vulnerable people who have compromised immune systems. If you are identified as eligible, I would urge you to come forward when this programme starts.
I will leave you with the final words the Prime Minister said in his announcement: “Today is not the day we can declare victory over COVID because this virus is not going away. But it is the day when all the efforts of the last two years finally enabled us to protect ourselves while restoring our liberties in full. And after two of the darkest grimmest years in our peacetime history, I do believe this is a moment of pride for our nation and a source of hope for all that we can achieve in the years to come.”
Take care and stay safe
Cllr Alan Jarrett
Leader of Medway Council