To receive a statement from the Leader of the Council in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9.
The Leader presented his update statement and in doing so drew attention to how Rotherham had seen, up to the end of last week, 320 deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the thoughts and prayers went out to all those who had been affected by the virus.
The infection rate was higher than the U.K. average here in Rotherham, but lower than areas like Leicester and Blackburn.
Since the last Council Meeting, Rotherham had seen a phased approach to lockdown restrictions being lifted. People could now meet with family and friends (two households), visit the pub or a restaurant, have a haircut and start to see a return to some familiar and important aspects of daily life. However, people must remain cautious, be careful and remember that Coronavirus was still a very real threat. The virus had not gone away.
On the 22nd May, 2020, the Government announced that as part of its national strategy to reduce infection from Coronavirus, it would expect every area in England to create a Local Outbreak Control Plan. The Council had its plan in place and had established a Local Outbreak Board which aimed to provide public-facing engagement and communication for outbreak response. The meetings were chaired by myself, the Leader, the Board meetings which were also attended by some Members (Councillors Cowles, Roche and Watson) joining today’s meeting and by officers that have accountability for addressing key elements of the Coronavirus response across the Borough. The objectives of the Board were:-
· Support the effective communication of the test, trace and contain plan for the Rotherham Borough.
· Provide regular updates to the Health and Wellbeing Board.
· Record proceedings of the Local Outbreak Engagement Board and agree and review actions for Board Members.
· Provide oversight of the local response around prevention and management of Covid-19 outbreaks, as set out in the Local Outbreak Control Plan.
· Lead on communication with residents, businesses and stakeholders across the Rotherham Borough generally in relation to outbreak prevention and management.
· Engage with communities and groups where outbreaks may be more likely or where they have occurred.
· Receive assurance on progress against the delivery of the Local Outbreak Control Plan.
The Prime Minister’s announcement over the weekend outlined new powers for Councils providing greater enforcement powers to facilitate local lockdowns to support the management of any outbreak. This meant that the Council was now able to enforce lockdowns of small areas (communities), close premises and cancel events which may be necessary to reduce the virus spreading and keep Rotherham open.
Rotherham’s infection rate was high compared to other areas so people needed to continue to follow the guidance. Wash hands regularly, stay 2 m apart wherever possible and get tested if displaying symptoms or if a person just wished to take a test.
This week it would become mandatory to wear a face covering in all shops and certain exemptions existed for people who may have breathing difficulties or young children.
Only by continuing to work together, following the guidelines and being cautious were people all helping to reduce the spread of this deadly virus.
In the period where Members could ask questions of the Leader’s statement, Councillor Carter reported how he had found the recent seminar as a useful update, but asked if the minutes of the Local Outbreak Engagement Board distributed to the Health and Wellbeing Board would be more helpful if they were sent to all Elected Members as a matter of procedure so Members could remain up-to-date with local measures that may need to be taken in a timely manner rather than a delay through appropriate channels.
The Leader took on board Councillor Carter’s comments, but pointed out it was not up to the Local Outbreak Engagement Board to manage individual situations or to be responsible for the Public Health response and this would remain in the hands of professionals.
The minutes would fulfil the function as described and come through the Health and Wellbeing Board to this meeting. Communication would continue with Members on a regular basis.
There had not been a local outbreak situation which was why the Borough were doing so much extra testing. However, should there be a particular situation or outbreak then Ward Members would be informed and engaged in the response.