Observer column: 15 May 2020
These are still very worrying times. Last week ended with the prime minister's announcement setting out the government's plan for a new COVID alert level system, some key ways lockdown would be eased from this week and a staged plan for return to 'normal.'
Previously the message was very clear and understood by all: stay home stay safe. I know that many of us have been left feeling confused and struggling to understand the logic behind the new message which is unclear and I would urge you if it is at all possible to continue to stay home and stay safe.*
Between us all, we have managed to keep the infection rate in Hastings down to one of the lowest in England but there have been local people who have been very ill and some who have sadly died. I believe one of the reasons for our low rate is the excellent way our residents have followed the lockdown measures and looked out for each other. Your kindness, community mindedness and consideration has been incredible to see and has had a real impact.
Supporting you, our residents, and keeping you and our staff safe is still our top priority during this crisis and we are thinking about how we continue to do this as we enter this new phase of life with coronavirus. We are mindful of the risks that this brings and the careful management needed to ensure that these new rights to exercise and requests to return to work do not cause infections rates to rise in Hastings.
Whilst keyworkers have continued working throughout this crisis more people who cannot work from home have been asked to return to workplaces. It will prove difficult for many employers to ensure all necessary safety measures are put in place and many employees will be fearful about how they and their families will be protected. Parents and teachers are extremely concerned about the announcement that schools must open on June 1st. Let us continue to be supportive of one another and recognise the stress that people are under.
We are concerned, like you, about people travelling into Hastings to enjoy our lovely beaches and parks. We have a very clear message to those thinking of doing this: Hastings is closed! We are a town that ordinarily loves to welcome visitors and share with them what we love about our town and we will be delighted to welcome them again when we feel it is safe for us to do so. But for now please stay away!
We do not want an influx of people, residents or tourists, in our open spaces making social distancing impossible and putting people at risk. We will be reviewing our arrangements for outdoor leisure facilities and considering opening them we can do so safely. This applies to our public toilets which remain closed for now. We believe this will help to deter people from visiting our town.
We are here still providing as many services as we can and keeping everything under review as more government guidance is issued. Please sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to keep up to date.
We have paid out £17,350,000 in business grants to 1482 eligible businesses who have applied. Nearly 1000 people throughout the town have had support from the Hastings Community Hub and its partners benefitting from food and pharmacy deliveries as well as befriending and other services. Thank you to everyone involved.
We are all looking forward to a time when our lives return to normal and we can be close to our loved ones again but please for now let us continue to keep each other safe in Hastings.
*We recognise that for those experiencing domestic abuse at home may not be safe. Find support here: https://www.hastings.gov.uk/housing/vulnerable/domesticviolence/
Council Leader's column