Today (23 March) I want to inform you about the main things the Isle of Wight Council will be doing this week to support our community and keep us all as safe as we can from coronavirus (Covid-19).
We know the worst may be yet to come, but we also know how we can protect ourselves — the question is: ‘are we all doing as much as we should to help keep our community safe?’
So what is happening this week on the Island?
Firstly, as you may be aware, we now have a public helpline number here on the Island which you can ring if you need help and support.
The number is (01983) 823600 and each caller will be asked to explain their need and then this information will be passed on to arrange support required.
It links in with the organisation and co-ordination of various community groups now being set up across the Island and being overseen by Community Action Isle of Wight, Age UK and Citizens Advice.
Funding – ‘WightAID’
To the wider public — you will shortly receive information about ‘WightAID’ which is an initiative providing an opportunity for those who wish to donate money directly into the community support being delivered across the Island — much of which is being undertaken by volunteers — then this will be your opportunity to do so and more information will follow shortly so please watch out for it.
Shielding the vulnerable
You will have also heard about the government’s ‘shielding programme’ for the most vulnerable in our community.
If you fall into this category you will shortly receive a letter from the NHS asking whether you need any help to self-isolate. Please follow the advice given and stay safe.
Between the council and the NHS, we will arrange for you to receive your medication and food parcels as part of this scheme. We are expecting more guidance from the government shortly and we will update you as soon as we have it.
We are also dealing with concerns raised about second-home owners who are considering moving over to the Island to get away from places where they feel they are more at risk. We appreciate they own houses here and pay their taxes here.
So this is a message for you — and let me be clear — our preference would be that you follow the government guidance and do not travel here but stay at your primary place of residence during the crisis to ensure the NHS on the Island can cope and that the virus is not spread to more isolated parts of the country like the Isle of Wight. The government specifically says essential travel does not include to second homes.
However, if you are one of those people and have nevertheless travelled to the Island, I would appeal to you directly to recognise that you may have travelled from places that have many more cases of the virus than we have so far seen here on the Island.
You may be also carrying the virus without showing any symptoms.
So I would ask you to please respect the safety of our Island community and to self-isolate for at least seven days, but preferably for 14 days from your arrival.
Also, take time to appreciate how we are managing things here on the Island be that social-distancing in shops and other locations and maintaining the highest level of personal hygiene, by washing hands regularly with soap and water and not intruding on the personal space of others.
On a more positive note, we are not aware of any planned or actual mainland coach travel either last week or in the next few weeks to the Island and I am grateful to the ferry operators for advising passengers to self-isolate for a minimum period when returning to the Island, after a long absence.
I am also grateful to the ferry companies for the efforts they are making to keep people safe during necessary ferry journeys — including Hover Travel.
It is true to say that ferry journeys by visitors have now reduced dramatically, which is just as well because in this period of crisis, visiting the Island just puts unnecessary added burden on our health services and so if travel is not essential please don’t come over at this time.
We also expect everyone on the Island to be sensible about their daily activities as well. We should all be shopping and social-distancing at the same time to avoid unnecessary risk to each other, and we ask our recent arrivals to recognise that many Islanders will be concerned about their recent arrival from the mainland and you need to respect and respond to these concerns appropriately and sensitively.
Remember that you are responsible for your own health and safety. Self-distancing will keep you and those you love safe — so take responsibility and do what you are being asked to do for everyone’s sake.
Finally, as a council, we are working very hard to ensure our local businesses have all the information they need to take advantage of the range of financial support now being made available by government.
I am pleased to confirm that as a council we have received £5 million from the government to help us manage the additional financial burden associated with our commitments to health and social care caused by Covid-19. It will also help us to fund the community support initiatives now underway across the Island.
But my big message to the Island this week is to remind everyone they must follow the advice and guidance being received from government around personal hygiene and social-distancing.
I would echo the words of the secretary of state, Robert Jenrick, when he said ‘this is not a game’ – it is real and important to everyone’s safety — so if you see people not complying then give them a polite reminder because your health and my health and safety may be in their hands.
(Dave Stewart – council leader)