68,000 children across Warwickshire return to school and college on Monday and after months of home schooling you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief, mixed with a pulpable excitement at seeing friends and teachers again.
It is vital that this first step of the Government’s Roadmap does not trigger a spike in infections, so every effort is being made to keep us safe, through a new testing regime, social distancing, face covering and hand washing measurers. Each step in the Roadmap will be guided by data, not dates, which are just indicative and subject to change. There is five weeks at least between each step in the Roadmap, so only once the return to schools and colleges has been safely implemented can we be confident of proceeding to the next easing of restrictions.
Remember too that one in three people carrying the virus do not show any symptoms. Whilst schools and colleges will be organising regular testing, if we’re out and about we should also get tested to protect our friends and family. Tests can easily be booked at local centres and take just 15 minutes. More details, here.
The local vaccination programme has now given the first jab to 49,764 people in Warwick District over 16 years-old. This week, our 60 – 64 year-olds will begin receiving their vaccination invitations. 93% of our care home residents have had their first jab too, with second doses also being given this week.
70-year-olds who still haven’t had their first vaccination are encouraged to book-in by making an appointment here; telephone 119 between 7am and 11pm, or contact their GP directly. As the programme roll-out continues, the vaccination offer is ‘every green’, so, if your cohort has already been vaccinated and you haven’t but would like to be, then you can come forward and book an appointment. We’ve other useful guidance on the vaccination programme, here.
Our local vaccine supplies are scheduled to double from mid-March. The programme will ramp-up then to ensure that all over 50 year-olds are offered a jab by mid-April, and significant numbers of second vaccinations are given too. This remarkable endeavour has only been made possible thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who enable our vaccination centres to operate so efficiently and effectively. The success so far with our local vaccination programme owes much to the selfless service of these marvellous volunteers who are cheerfully giving us real hope. A special thank you to you all!
The combination of lockdown measurers, continued testing and vaccinating has affected our local infection rates, which have declined this week from 102.3 to 76.5 cases per 100,000 residents. While this is good news, best we continue to be cautiously optimistic, as weekly fluctuations leave no room for complacency. The Government’s guidance remains and supports our efforts to progress to the next step on the Roadmap.
Support for our local businesses continues with the launch of our new discretionary grant scheme this week. Over 130 applications were submitted on Monday and mindful of just how vital this support is, we were ready to make the first grant payments straight-away. Eligibility criteria and application details are available, here.
We know that our parks and gardens have provided much needed respite and relaxation during the lockdown. Looking to the future this week, working together with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust as part of our district-wide plan, we planted new trees at Oakley Wood, in Bishop’s Tachbrook to improve the beautiful woodland and in time return this area to its historical form. At St Mary’s Lands, in Warwick we continue our work with local volunteers to protect the wildlife and maintain biodiversity of this much-loved open space. We’ve temporarily installed fencing to protect the skylarks, which are currently nesting onsite and have suffered a decline in numbers over recent years. And we share this fascinating video from our friends at the Leamington Society, providing an eye-opening presentation on the remarkable trees in Jephson Gardens, highlighting all that we can enjoy from a a winter visit to this treasured public space.
We would also like to thank everyone involved in our first virtual Spark conference, which welcomed over 540 delegates, attending 22 sessions, sharing over 2,300 messages and 710 photos in 5 days. This innovative event demonstrated what can be achieved when we collaborate with our artists and creatives. We hope to build on this venture as we create the cultural programme to celebrate our arts and heritage as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
And finally, a reminder for all of us who enjoy our history and heritage, don’t miss the BBC Antiques Roadshow programme broadcast on Sunday 7 March, the first of two interest-packed shows filmed at Kenilworth Castle during last summer. Find out more about the programmes, here.