These are difficult days, but there is hope on the horizon
The Prime Minister‘s announcement that England was returning to national restrictions until at least the middle of February was as necessary as it was unwelcome for us all.
Heading into what we all hope will be a much more positive New Year, it was the last thing we wanted to hear.
However, there can be no doubt that decisive action is needed to address the rapid spread of Covid-19 throughout our communities.
The details of what these latest restrictions mean for you can be found on the Covid-19 advice pages on our website, https://www.gravesham.gov.uk. I would ask you to familiarise yourself with what we can and cannot do under these latest measures and follow them at all times.
There can be no hiding from the fact that the infection rate here in Gravesham has been among the worst in England over a sustained period of time and all our efforts to bring it back under control have been having little impact.
Other areas around us are suffering in a similar way and tougher nationwide restrictions are necessary to bring the virus back under control.
We will ensure our essential front line services continue as normal during this latest period of national restrictions.
We will provide support for the shielding and vulnerable in our communities; we will collect your household waste and recycling as normal and keep our streets and communities clean; we will continue to support the homeless; we will distribute any new business support grants to our local businesses as quickly and efficiently as possible; and we will continue to support those working in the charity sector to help those who need it the most in Gravesham.
But there is hope on the horizon. Testing for those without Covid symptoms is now available in the Borough. This was shown to have a key role in breaking the chain of transmission in Liverpool last year.
People carrying the Covid virus but who are not displaying symptoms can still transmit it to others. By getting tested, those asymptomatic cases can be identified and affected individuals can self-isolate and break the chain.
I would urge you all to register for a test if you are not displaying Covid symptoms. Details of how to do that can be found at news.gravesham.gov.uk.
And, of course, vaccines are being rolled out. It is important to remember these are being administered by the NHS on a strict priority basis. You will be invited for a vaccine by the NHS or your own GP when your turn comes, and it is important you make an appointment as soon as you are able to.
There is no doubt another sustained period of lockdown through January and into February is going to be challenging for us all.
In the middle of winter, we must remember those who live on their own and for who loneliness will weigh heavily.
Throughout the Pandemic, Gravesham has come together as One Community and we need to do that now more than ever before.
Check on your neighbours, video call family and friends, and support and encourage each other through these difficult times.
If you or anyone you know needs help or support, you can find useful contact details for a range of support services and charities on the Covid advice pages at www.gravesham.gov.uk.
If you are in business in Gravesham, our business support pages on our website will be updated as soon as any additional schemes come online. Please keep checking and be assured we will do our very best to contact any businesses we believe to be eligible for any new schemes.
Above all, over the next weeks please stay at home, stay safe, and protect yourself and your families.
With all best wishes
Cllr John Burden, Leader, Gravesham Borough Council