Update on Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Council’s Leader, Councillor Bob Cook.
Our weekly COVID-19 dashboard showed there were 397 new cases of COVID-19 for the week ending November 29, a rate of 201.2 per 100,000 population.
That’s another drop on the previous week, when there were 634 new cases and a rate of 321.3 per 100,000 population.
While that’s very encouraging there were also 14 COVID-related deaths in the Borough last week so we cannot be complacent.
The challenge is to keep our numbers going down and to do that we need to keep on following the rules to keep people safe.
The Government has said they’ll review the current tier allocations by December 16 so that gives us something to aim for.
Thank you for all you are doing – we will continue to keep you updated in the coming days and weeks.
Local community testing
We’ve applied for Government support to roll out wide-scale rapid-result testing in our communities. This follows last week’s Government announcement that support will be made available to authorities placed into Tier 3 restrictions to carry out this testing.
The Government has responded tonight to say they welcome our application and will now work with us to develop plans further. They say they will be in touch with details of the next steps next week.
Now that these plans for wide-scale testing are progressing, we are able to adjust our plans for the use of the 10,000 lateral flow tests allocated to the Borough. Our intention now is to use these tests in a more targeted way.
We’ll be using these tests to support the national testing programme in the care sector and in outbreak management situations. We’re also developing a pilot scheme to use these tests in a small number of schools in the new year.
Winter Grant scheme
I’m pleased to announce that we’ve agreed a Winter Grant scheme primarily to support families with children who receive free school meals, but also to support others in hardship including parents and carers of pre-school children and those in post-16 education.
We’ll be distributing two payments – a £50 voucher before the Christmas school holiday and a £25 voucher before the February half-term holiday. The vouchers can be used at a range of shops, allowing families to free-up funds for things like fuel and utilities.
The vouchers will be distributed through schools and colleges across the Borough and more details will be available next week. This voucher scheme is in addition to the support we already provide to families, households and people on a low income with food, fuel and other expenses.
Help for vulnerable and elderly people
Formal shielding for people defined as ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’ ended along with the national lockdown on December 2 and during the lockdown period we made 1,000 calls and sent 9,400 letters to make sure these residents had the support they needed. Catalyst and our brilliant VCSE organisations delivered direct support to 174 people in the form of prescriptions, food parcels and essential shopping.
The COVID Community Support Team continues to support vulnerable and elderly residents with help collecting shopping, picking up prescriptions or making sure people who are self-isolating and may be worried or lonely get the support they need.
Help for people who are struggling financially
We appreciate that a lot of people are struggling financially and there’s lots of information on our website about welfare support, the £500 Test and Trace support payments, housing support, help with Council Tax, and the Hardship Fund. You can find this on our webpage at www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus/financialsupport.
Help for businesses
The payment of support grants for businesses forced to close as part of last month’s national lockdown on November 5 continues to go well, and we’re turning round applications very quickly.
We’re now finalising arrangements for additional Tier 3 funding support for businesses and seeking details of the recently announced top-up payment for pubs – we will make arrangements to get these paid out as soon as the details are available.
Meanwhile, we will continue to promote this support widely, particularly through our social media channels. You can find information and application forms for all the grants available on our dedicated business support webpage www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus/businesssupport.
Remember, you can keep up with all Coronavirus (COVID-19) related developments in the Borough, including details of the help and support available, via our webpage www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus.