At last night’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee members heard that 90 per cent of Coronavirus (Covid-19) cases on the Isle of Wight are down to the new variant.
CEO of the Isle of Wight council (IWC) John Metcalfe, explained that the new variant is 70 per cent more transmissible and that one in three people have the virus with no symptoms.
He said how we act is now vitally important in order to get the virus under control. He said we are starting to see peak of people mixing at Christmas and in around a week we’ll see any peak from people mixing over the News Year – although he added that of course people should not have been mixing at that time due to Tier 4 restrictions.
He also added the new pop-up drive-through testing centre at 1Leisure Medina announced last week, can provide an extra 300 tests per weeks.
Hutchinson: People are putting their own interpretation on things
Deputy leader and Cabinet member for resources, Stuart Hutchinson (Con), stressed the importance of residents following exactly what the Government are saying, after the Island has been “knocked sideways by the new variant”.
“We have noticed quite a lot of people are putting their own interpretation on things to suit what they want to do.”
He said the full recovery from the pandemic is going to take months longer than originally anticipated.
Support for businesses
Cllr Hutchinson explained that support for businesses was now live on the council’s Website, but warned businesses to make sure they are applying for the correct schemes, as there are now many options available.
His advice was for business owners to read the guidance fully before to ensure they are applying for the correct grant. This will help avoid payments being slowed down.
Free school meal vouchers
Cllr Julie Jones-Evans (Ind) asked about the Island’s response to free school meals during lockdown, citing the national story of inadequate food parcels being supplied to parents for school lunch replacements.
John Metcalfe stated there had been no complaints to them about food packages or parcels, but that they were looking to enhance the scheme. He said the schools were working well on the issue.
This was echoed by Cllr Paul Brading (Con), the cabinet member responsible for children’s services and education.
Cllr Michael Beston (Con) said there was a real appetite for knowing the figures of how many vaccinations had been rolled out, and where, on the Island. He asked whether there were any plans for a local vaccination tracker.
Mr Metcalfe replied there were no plans and that they were reliant on data from NHS. He said the national data was due to be released on a daily basis very soon, and for more localised data to be released in about two to three weeks. He explained the data wasn’t even held regionally, let alone at IWC level.
Eating on ferries
Chairman of the Committee, Cllr Richard Hollis (Con), told members that he’d been told about food being served on one of the ferries, which results in people not wearing masks and behaving contrary to correct social distancing rules.
He asked whether the CEO could make the case to the ferry companies for passengers to remain in their cars.
Mr Metcalfe explained that passengers can remain in their cars on certain crossings but need to make arrangements in advance with the ferry operator (as outlined here).
Social distancing measures in town?
Cllr Jones-Evans asked whether there were plans to reintroduce social distancing measures in the county town. Last year the width of some pavements were increased and dots painted on footways to remind residents of the need to stay 2m away from other people.
Cllr Hutchinson replied after discussion with the Director of Public Health, Simon Bryant, with the increased transmissibility of new variant, there had been debate about whether 2m should be the minimum distance, suggesting it should be further.
Hutchinson: Some people don’t know how far 2m is
Cllr Hutchinson questioned how they would get people to comply, adding that although most people have been very careful, there was an element of the population who didn’t seem to know what 2m was.
“This has to be down to individual responsibility and we have got to get that through to everybody. Stay at home and keep your distance.”
Cllr Jones-Evans replied that as a business owner it had been stressful to keep reminding people about masks and using hand sanitiser, etc, putting extra pressure on small businesses.
Vaccination the “only way out”
The discussion ended with Cllr Hutchison explaining that although the current spike of Covid cases is reducing, a very high number of people still have the virus.
“The vaccination is going to be only way of this pandemic.”
10.55am 13th Jan 2021 – “Not” corrected to “now” in sentence “He said how we act is now vitally important “