Leaders from Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington and Halton, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership, and their senior officers, met urgently today to assess the implications of this weekend’s announcement by the Prime Minister.
Over the last few weeks the people of Cheshire have managed different and rapidly changing restrictions in each of our four council areas. They have made a difference. But the challenge now affects all areas of the country.
The Group strongly endorse the renewed message to Stay At Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.
The Chair of the Leaders Board, Councillor Sam Corcoran, said:
“We have spoken out over the last eight months, when the government was slow to act, failed to deliver critical support, relied too heavily on opaque national commercial contracts, didn’t provided enough certainty to protect jobs and businesses, and made announcements without proper consultation with local government. But, given where we now are, the pressures on our NHS, and the advice of national and local public health experts, we support the government’s decision to introduce a time-limited national lockdown.”
The Group recognised the immense challenges this situation will create for us all, and committed to provide as much local support as possible to residents, communities and businesses. They called on government to provide more support for business; with additional support for the most exposed sectors: culture, hospitality, tourism, and their associated supply chains. They also committed to protection for the people most at risk from the consequences of lockdown; including support for people suffering from poor mental health, and comprehensive help for people forced into poverty. Leaders also called for a comprehensive solution to the funding of local public services.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Chair of the Outbreak Coordination Group which overseas Cheshire’s response to covid-19, added “We now need to use this time to make a difference beyond November. We need an exit strategy. By using this time to put in place the right local and national systems, we can put ourselves in a better position to keep the virus under control through Christmas and into 2021.”
A precondition for a successful exit from lockdown is an effective system for testing, contact tracing, and support to isolate. The national system still contains significant gaps which have limited its effectiveness. A localised system has been demonstrated to deliver more success at containing the virus, with considerable best-practice shown here in Cheshire. The Outbreak Coordination Group therefore agreed to bring forward a detailed plan for a localised test, trace and isolate system, to be fully operational at the conclusion of the lockdown period, enabling local businesses to re-open as soon as it is safe to do so.