Observer column: 27 November 2020
As I write we have one more week until the latest lockdown ends and we are waiting to hear what tier our town will be in, and what that will mean for us and our businesses. It has been a feature of this pandemic how well we have come together in our borough to work to keep the infection at bay and how everyone has tried to play their part.
Until recently our infection rate was the lowest in the country, but our rate has been increasing and although we are still below the national average, we are not even the lowest in Sussex now. Just 50 miles away, Swale in Kent is reporting 900 cases per day and has the highest rate in the country and Thanet is not far behind. These areas share similar features to Hastings and like us, in September, had very low rates of infection.
So please let's continue to work together and where we can stay at home and minimise the contact we have with others. When we go out, every time we remember to keep our social distance, cover our faces and wash our hands, we are protecting each other. Space, Face, Hands-this is our mantra and must continue to guide our actions.
As we head towards Christmas where the restrictions will be lifted for five days, we need to be extremely careful: let's make a vow to do all we can not to give an unwanted present of the virus to any of our friends and family.
Wednesday November 25th marked International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, also known as White Ribbon Day, and the start of 16 Days of Action. Bottle Alley was lit up in orange to show support #orangetheworld.
The physical events that are usually held could not go ahead so instead the council has joined with other organisations in online campaigning to raise awareness. There's more information at www.whiteribbon.org.uk Please take the pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about domestic abuse.
Across Hastings in 2019/20 we saw 1,680 recorded crimes and 1,218 recorded incidents of abuse against women. We know that lots of cases of domestic abuse still go unreported because it is not easy to leave an abusive relationship, especially if the perpetrator has control over aspects of a victim's life.
This year COVID-19 has meant that lots of victims may feel more isolated. There's also lots of support available for both victims, and professionals who need to gain help for a client. This information can be found through The Portal: https://theportal.org.uk/.
If you have a friend or relative that is in a violent relationship, please try to check on them and be there to listen to them when they need you. Remember the current COVID-19 restrictions do not apply if someone needs to leave their home because of abuse. We hope that through our joint campaign we reach out to as many victims as possible, to help them believe that there can be a future after abuse for them.
Finally, we were again reminded over the weekend of the power, and danger, of the sea, with the sinking of a fishing boat off Newhaven. Coastguard rescue teams, the RNLI and a dozen fishing boats spent many hours searching, rescuing one person but not able to find the other two crew; at the time of writing one body had been recovered, the other is still missing.
Fishing remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the country, and we salute all those who go to sea to help provide our food, and those who get called upon to rescue them.
We were proud to thank our own lifeboat crew in the council chamber earlier in the year when their near capsize as they tried to land in storm force conditions after a 'shout' was dramatically caught on film and made national news and, indeed, featured on the BBC again just earlier this week.
As ever let's continue to be kind and considerate towards each other and please stay safe.
Council Leader's column