Renfrewshire Council

Message from Chief Executive, Sandra Black - 5 February 2021

This week Scottish Government confirmed what we all expected, in that the current Level Four lockdown measures will remain in place until at least the end of February however, there were signs of real progress and cause for optimism in the coming weeks.

In the last three weeks, the average number of daily cases have more than halved and the number of hospital admissions are now also in decline.

This progress is down to everyone supporting and living with the measures in place and that's why I urge you to please continue to stay at home as much as possible and only leave the house for essential reasons, such as shopping, outdoor exercise, attending a hospital or doctor appointment, caring responsibilities and for essential work if you are unable to work from home and not shielding.

While much is being done to combat the spread of Covid-19, for some of our colleagues the illness is very close to home and the effects can be devastating. My thoughts are with everyone who is unwell from this terrible virus and with family and colleagues who are providing support. Please be assured the council is here to help in any way we can.

You can read more about the lockdown regulations on the Scottish Government website.

While the pressure on the NHS currently remains severe, there is some hope that we might begin to see the gradual easing of restrictions around the start of March.

The one exception is the proposed phased reopening of schools to more pupils later this month.

Before I outline the proposed timeline I'd like to express my gratitude, once again, to all our teachers and staff, who have continued to work to keep our schools and nurseries open to in-person learning, and also to all parents and carers who have been busy juggling work and home schooling.

As part of this phased return it is proposed that all pupils in P1-P3 and pre-school children will return to the classroom full-time from 22 February. There will also be a part-time return, but on a very limited basis, for senior secondary pupils to allow them to complete work for national qualifications, however only a very small percentage of pupils, between 5%-8% will be able to be present at any one time.

The above is subject to confirmation in two weeks and if we continue to suppress the virus, it is also hoped that the next phase of the gradual school return can be set out on this date.

To further reduce the risk of Covid-19 and support the safe return of pupils and staff, a significant expansion of testing in schools and nurseries was also announced, with all staff members and senior secondary school pupils being offered voluntary at home testing twice a week. We are in the process of working through the arrangements and will provide more details to our early years and schools staff shortly to outline the process and confirm next steps.

This is part of a wider expansion of regular, routine testing of those without symptoms which will also see testing made available to our HSCP and social care colleagues and in time, targeted community testing for people whether they have symptoms or not.

A vital part of the national effort to suppress the virus and enable a return to normal, is our work to support the national vaccination programme.

On Monday at 08.30am the doors opened to our three vaccination centres at The Lagoon in Paisley, Johnstone Town Hall and Renfrew Leisure Centre and since then a steady stream of members of the public have been warmly welcomed by Renfrewshire Leisure staff and other colleagues from across the council who are supporting the operation of the centres.

I'm pleased to say that the uptake has been very high and the feedback from NHS teams working onsite and the wider NHS public health team has been really positive. As has the response by patients who have visited one of the sites with some of them taking to social media to praise the safety measures in place, the efficiency of their appointment and the friendliness and professionalism of our staff. Vaccinations are being allocated in line with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority listings. More information on the vaccine, how it works, why it has been judged as safe and when you can expect to get one is available from the NHS Inform website.

I'm sure many of you will agree, it's been good to put the short days of January behind us and look forward to brighter ones over the coming weeks. This winter it's even more important to recognise the challenges we all face and to make sure we all look after ourselves and each other and if we need it, ask for and get support.

That's why this week we launched 'Our wellbeing' a new campaign outlining the support we have available, along with key tips from health, fitness, wellbeing and financial experts, as well as real life insights and experiences from our colleagues from across the council.

There's lots to look forward to and everyone has a role to play, starting with recognising and taking care of your own needs. So please keep an eye on our regular channels in the coming weeks and the Taking care of our wellbeing page on the council website is full of useful information and details of who you can contact if you require support.

Thank you and please stay safe

Sandra