Reacting to last night’s news that a national lockdown has again been put in place by Government in response to the Covid 19 pandemic, Councillor Jason Brock, Reading Borough Council Leader, said:
“Reading reacted magnificently when a national lockdown was called by Government back in March and in November last year. I have little doubt it will do so again. When you think back to that first lockdown, there was a great sense of togetherness and of community spirit across our town - that is something we now need to quickly recapture in what will be another very difficult few weeks and months ahead.
“The reality is the rapid spread of this new strain means there is no choice but to tighten restrictions once more. In Reading, the infection rate per 100,000 for the week December 24th to 30th to was 548.9. That is up from 440.1 the previous week and up from 220.1 in mid-December. The figures are stark and speak for themselves.
“The Government’s new lockdown rules mean you must not leave or be outside of your home, except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. These include work, where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home; essential activities like shopping for food, whether for yourself or a vulnerable person; exercise once a day and in your local area; education and childcare where children are eligible to attend; and visiting people in your support bubble. There is a wider full list of reasons you can leave home at the gov.uk website.
“Now, more than ever, it is essential that we all do the right thing for Reading and take some time to familiarise ourselves with the new lockdown rules and stick rigidly to them. The key message is not to leave home except for a very limited number of permitted reasons. In very simple terms, the more people you see, the more likely it is that you will catch or spread coronavirus. Washing your hands regularly, wearing a mask if you do need to go out and keeping your distance from others remain as important than ever. If you develop COVID symptoms - a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss or change to your sense of smell or taste - please get a test to help protect others.
“What does not help anyone is the Government’s prevaricated decision making in the face of what was an unfortunately inevitable decision on school closures. Despite the calls by local headteachers and teachers over the Christmas break for primary schools to remain shut, the Government waited until the evening of the first day of the new term to make that call, putting school staff and parents in an extremely difficult position. As we said at the weekend, the Council was ready to back schools in making the decisions that were right for their children and communities. Last night’s announcement will not stop us making representations to the Department for Education on its lack of clarity around decision making.
“We also intend to lobby Government on more support for local businesses, which is clearly vital. The Council continues to offer support for businesses that were required to close under Tier 2,3 and 4 restrictions from December 2. The extension of the restrictions into Tier 5 means the Government must also now extend its financial support for local businesses in Reading. We intend to work with our partners at Reading UK and our local Chamber of Commerce to campaign for that vital extra support. A further application window will be made available this week to support businesses and self-employed individuals through the discretionary grant fund. See eligibility criteria and how to apply.
“In the difficult weeks and months ahead the Council and its indispensable network of local partners will again mobilise to support our local communities and vulnerable residents, just as we did during the first lockdown and throughout this crisis. There is a useful section on the Council’s website about where people can get help if they find themselves in difficulty during the lockdown, whether that is medical or financial help or help with things like loneliness, domestic abuse, mental health or support for carers. Here are a range of helpful contacts numbers and weblinks.
“What is different from the first lockdown, of course, is the real hope of a successful and rapid vaccine roll out over the next few weeks, providing protection for the most vulnerable members of our community. I would strongly urge people in those categories to immediately take up the offer of a vaccine when it comes. The higher the number of people vaccinated, the quicker we can get back to a level of normality, which we are all striving for.
“Thank you once again to every resident, businesses and organisation in Reading for their tremendous efforts so far and for their sacrifices in the weeks and months to come. I know everyone will do our town, our community and our neighbourhoods proud.”