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 has shown a fall in the number of COVID-19 cases across the Borough.
There were 190 new cases during the week ending March 14, a rate of 96.3 per 100,000 population, compared with 207 new cases and a rate of 104.9 the previous week.
For the rate to fall below 100 cases per 100,000 people is encouraging but we must keep at it – we need to get rates down even lower and then keep them there.
If we all follow the rules we can help to reduce the spread of the virus.
Supporting the National Day of Reflection
We are supporting the Marie Curie charity’s plan for a National Day of Reflection on Tuesday (March 23), which is a year since the start of the first lockdown in the UK.
We are encouraging residents to take part in a one-minute silence at 12pm and to shine a light from their doorstep at 8pm.
We will also be changing the Borough’s feature lighting to yellow as we reflect on our collective loss, support those who've been bereaved, and hope for a brighter future.
There have been 485 COVID-related deaths in the Borough since the start of the pandemic and our thoughts will be with those who have lost someone close to them.
You can find full details on the Marie Curie website at www.mariecurie.org.uk/get-involved/day-of-reflection.
End of surge testing operation in TS19
The two-week surge testing operation in TS19 came to an end on Wednesday.
The extra testing was carried out after a case of the South African COVID-19 variant was found in the area.
A total of 4,887 tests were carried out, with 57 people testing positive – this positivity rate is consistent with the rest of the Borough, which is really encouraging news.
All positive tests have been sent off for analysis to establish if they are the variant.
Once again, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who came forward for a test and to everyone involved in mobilising this extra testing at such short notice.
I expect a lot of people who were tested might not have been tested before and my message to people across the Borough is that we’d like you to get tested regularly.
There are plenty of testing options available and we’d encourage you to get tested twice a week, even if you do not have symptoms.
Testing for people without symptoms is an important weapon in the fight against this virus and can help stop the spread.
Testing for residents without COVID-19 symptoms
We have three testing centres for people without COVID-19 symptoms who live or work in the Borough – they are at Billingham Forum, Thornaby Pavilion and Stockton Splash.
It’s very quick and easy to do the test, you receive the result within half an hour, and you can be tested regularly if you like.
Please remember all tests must be booked in advance via www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus/testing.
The tests are free of charge and aim to identify people who have COVID-19 but aren’t displaying any symptoms, so they know they need to self-isolate.
Testing for residents with COVID-19 symptoms
Remember, if you DO have any symptoms – high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you need to book a test through the NHS.
Tests are free and can be booked either online or by calling 119.
Testing to help keep our schools safe
I must extend my thanks to schools across the Borough for all the work they have done to set up testing and support a safe return to school.
School attendance has remained very high this week and it’s clear to me that all our schools are very keen to ensure children are back for their education and to catch-up with their friends.
We are supporting schools as they follow the national guidance on in-school testing and comply with the requirement for secondary school pupils to wear a face mask.
We are also reminding people without symptoms who live with (or are in a childcare or support bubble with) children who go to school/college that the national advice is to undertake twice-weekly testing to help keep our schools safe.
You can find details of the testing options available at the bottom of our testing web page www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus/testing.
Help for vulnerable and elderly people
The COVID Community Support Team can help vulnerable and elderly residents by collecting shopping, picking up prescriptions or making sure people who are self-isolating, shielding and may be worried or lonely get the support they need.
You can contact the team on 01642 733906 between 9am and 12noon, Monday to Friday, or by emailing [email protected].
Help for people who are struggling financially
A lot of people are facing financial hardship due to the effects of COVID-19.
You can find 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.
For more information visit www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus/financialsupport.
Help for businesses
We have now received details of the new “Restart Grants”.
This scheme will provide one-off grants to non-essential retail businesses of up to £6,000 per premises, and grants to qualifying hospitality and leisure businesses of between £8,000 and £18,000, depending on rateable value.
The national scheme allows us to start paying grants from Thursday, April 1 and we are making arrangements to pay them as soon as we are allowed.
Meanwhile, we continue to process and administer a wide range of grants to support local businesses through this extremely challenging time.
You can keep up to date with the details of all of the business support available on our website at 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 at www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus.