Observer column: 11 December 2020
We saw the mass vaccination programme start on Tuesday and our thanks go to the teams of scientists who have been working around the world and around the clock to develop these vaccines. It's quite incredible that a process which can normally take years has been safely condensed and completed in just one year.
However, it will take months for everyone here to be offered the vaccine so we will continue to be living with the virus and the restrictions that help us to try to keep it at bay in 2021.
The director of public health for East Sussex, Darrell Gale, has contacted us saying that since the weekend there has been an increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Rother and a steeper increase still in Hastings.
He noted that although he hasn't got the complete picture yet there are some themes emerging. In Hastings, young people (aged 10-19) including those attending secondary school or college show the greatest numbers; with several school-based outbreaks.
In Rother, care homes are the area where most outbreaks/linked cases appear, and many of these are amongst staff who are asymptomatic. They have generally been picked up by the routine care homes testing programme.
We all know that until the beginning of November Hastings had a very low Covid-19 infection rate, indeed the lowest in the country at one point and this information was shared widely and some of us may have been lulled into a false sense of security.
As our rate is increasing, we need to concentrate on keeping ourselves and others safe: Space, Face, Hands. Minimising our contact with others is most important and when we are around others then social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing our hands regularly will help protect us and others.
The director of public health for East Sussex is very concerned that cases may begin to escalate rapidly, and he wants us to understand that without our positive efforts to control the spread we could find ourselves in Tier 3 like our neighbours in Kent.
The increase in our rate happened during the last week of lockdown and Darrell believes that coming out of lockdown into Tier 2 (High Alert) with its easing of most restrictions, means people are likely to have increased their contacts and social activities and therefore the likelihood of transmission of the virus.
Darrell says that there is evidence that in Hastings and Rother there is a lot of community transmission which means that people who test positive may not be isolating as they should and/or that before testing positive people are having many social / community contacts of significant duration to cause transmission.
Please remember that if you are on a low income and can't work from home and have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace you may be able to get some financial help. Go to our website, www.hastings.gov.uk/self-isolation to find out more and apply.
Also, if your business was affected by the second lockdown in November but you weren't eligible for a local restriction support grant, our additional restriction grant is still available.
We are still waiting for full details from the government about the grant schemes that were to be put in place for those affected by Tier 2 restrictions, and when we have more information, you will be able to find it on our website.
In the run up to Christmas let's really think about only mixing with others when it is essential, this is the best way of reducing transmission of the virus. If we can do this then as we enter our Christmas bubbles, we stand less chance of taking the virus in with us and giving Covid as an unwanted Christmas present to those we love.
Council Leader's column