Headline
Brief from the Chief: COVID-19 Update - 29 April
Date
Wed, 29 Apr 2020
Description

Dear colleagues,

There is a lot of speculation at the moment about when the UK's COVID-19 lockdown will be lifted or eased.

The Prime Minister said on Monday that he will reveal a plan by the end of the week for "refining" the lockdown and that meetings will be held with ministers to finalise details of how different sectors could start easing their way back into operation.

Boris Johnson said the UK was now "beginning to turn the tide" but he urged the public not to lose patience with the lockdown because the country is in the moment of "maximum risk".

It is clear from Monday morning's address by the Prime Minister, and from the Downing Street briefings on Monday and yesterday, that the lockdown will not be relaxed too quickly or too soon because of significant concerns of a second spike in cases.

The UK Government's chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, said yesterday that scientists were trying to assess how "opening up of different bits of society" would affect the spread of the virus and that ministers faced "very difficult choices" about what measures could be lifted.

Here in the East Riding, we are already starting to resume some important services which had been stopped and we are planning how we can recommence others, as long as safe systems of working are in place which take into account social distancing and other coronavirus-related guidance from the Government and Public Health England.

I told you in the last Brief from the Chief how the council's Corporate and Senior Management Teams have also started to consider the council's strategic and operational recovery plans for how the council can return to "normal" business after the crisis is over.

This includes not only the organisation's recovery and future but also the recovery and future of the East Riding as a place - the area's economy, our local communities and the residents we all support.

As well as the worries people have for their own health and that of their loved ones, local business owners have worries for their livelihoods to contend with as well, as does anyone whose employment depends on the survival of their place of work.

The council is committed to doing all it can to support local communities, local businesses and the local economy and that is why we have tried to keep essential and important services operating wherever possible and we are trying to recommence other services as soon as practical and - more importantly - as soon as it is safe to do so.

It is heartening to hear from Government that there are positive signs that COVID-19 is being brought under control but we know there is a long way to go yet and that we - the council and the East Riding public - will need to remain committed to the lockdown in whatever form it takes.

However the lockdown is "refined" in the near future, we will once again have a hugely important role to play in keeping the East Riding as safe as possible.

As and when the Government tries to kick-start the economy and society, there will need to be safe workplaces, safe education provision, safe public spaces and safe transport.

For many of us, it will no doubt mean a different kind of workplace and different ways of working to what we were used to before COVID-19.

Social distancing will continue to be the norm for the foreseeable future and, for those of us based in offices, that could mean more flexible working and more remote working so that offices are not too crowded.

We may need to stagger physical returns to work, to take into account social distancing and also ICT pressures.

And of course we will need to maintain the highest standards of hygiene in our working environments, individually and as an organisation.

The cleaning teams have been doing a great job of thoroughly deep-cleaning kitchens and toilets in particular while sites have been largely empty, so thank you to them for their efforts.

I've previously said that the council's recovery planning will also be considering any lessons learned from how we have worked during this national emergency, to see how we can build on the digital steps forward which we have taken.

I look forward to seeing how we can further embrace technology to improve how we work and provide even better services for our communities. This will be even more important as we face the £4million-a-month financial shortfall which we are facing as a result of COVID-19.

I've asked heads of service to identify areas of their budgets where we won't be spending as much this year, for example travel and subsistence costs, to help us address the 2020-21 in-year financial gap.

While we remain uncertain about how the lockdown will be refined in the coming weeks, one thing is for sure and that is my certainty that you will all continue to show resilience and commitment to the cause.

You have displayed superb public service values throughout this crisis so far and I have every confidence that this will continue for as ever long it takes to get through this.

This has been echoed by feedback from our councillors who have been universally supportive of the council's efforts. I have met - virtually - with all ward members over the past two weeks and they have all asked me to pass on their gratitude for everything that you have been doing.

Finally, thank you to those of you who took part in the communi-tea break last Thursday. The event was the brainchild of animal health officer Antonia Holtby and was organised by the social media team within marketing, who had a fun "get-to-know-your-TEAmmates" quiz as part of their half-hour virtual get-together.

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The next Tea at Three takes place at 3pm tomorrow so if you would like to socialise over a cuppa while practising social distancing, visit the council's Facebook page for the live event.

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If you can't make the live Tea at Three event but do have your own virtual tea party with work colleagues, family or friends at another time, feel free to send your pictures to social.media@eastriding.gov.uk if you're happy for them to be shared.

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Thank you.

#TogetherEastRiding

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