Mayor: 'lockdown is tough', but we must keep each other safe
For most of us, this third lockdown is one of the toughest periods of the pandemic so far, as we stay at home to help control the spread of coronavirus and keep each other safe.
It also comes against a backdrop of all the previous sacrifice, darker and colder winter days and nights, uncertainty about when it will end and of course the further sad loss of Hackney residents.
While it’s tough, we’ve all got to do our bit - staying at home, self-isolating when instructed or after getting symptoms, following social distancing rules - to help stretched local health services.
I know how hard it is for everyone. I got only a small taste of this recently when I was instructed by the NHS App to self-isolate at home for 10 days prior to the new lockdown, without being able to get out and exercise.
In London, it’s estimated that one in 30 people have Coronavirus and, worryingly, one in three do not show symptoms so can pass the virus onto others.
In Hackney the current rate is 974 cases per 100,000 (PHE data, 14th January 2021) compared to a rate of 19 per 100,000 in the last week of August.
Sadly 20 COVID-19 deaths were recorded in Hackney in the first week of January and by the time you read this blog we may have reached the even grimmer milestone of 300 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Admissions at Homerton Hospital have also rocketed, with the hospital confirming recently that it “remains under intense pressure". I can’t thank them and all those working in our health and social care system enough for what they do every day.
Acting like you have coronavirus is the most effective way to protect yourself and others: keeping 2m apart, wearing a face mask indoors and not mixing with anyone outside your household or support bubble.
This weekend, Council officers will be working closely with the police to patrol areas where there have been reports of breaches in Covid-19 guidance.
While the Council does not have powers to take action against individuals who are not complying with social distancing guidance, police officers will take action to ensure everyone stays safe.
Individuals breaking the guidance can face fines of up to £6,400.
As we have been doing throughout the pandemic, Council enforcement officers will be speaking to residents and businesses to advise them of the guidance and support them to comply.
This has so far seen Council officers deployed across the borough, making nearly 2,500 visits to Hackney businesses and continually communicating with them about how to operate in a COVID-safe way.
We know it's been a challenging year for businesses as many have faced severe financial hardship and had to adapt at very short notice to new restrictions.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been providing support to businesses by sharing new regulations, guidance and funding opportunities, as well as paying out over £100m in grants and business rates relief - with more support going out this week - and providing hundreds of struggling businesses in our own properties with rent-free periods and rent deferrals.
While we’re continuing to provide this support, we do also need to make sure businesses are doing everything they can to protect staff and customers, and this weekend and beyond, we will also take action against businesses who do not follow coronavirus guidance - such as the current ban on the sale of takeaway alcohol - to help everyone keep safe.
While things are incredibly tough at the moment, there is light at the end of the tunnel, with early signs that admissions to hospitals in London are levelling off, and more and more of our older friends and relatives getting the vaccine. But we can’t let down our guard and there can be no return to normal until we have the virus under control and infections and cases fall substantially. This could still take many many weeks.
The Council and the NHS are here to support you – whether you need help with accessing money, food or essential supplies, are worried about your mental health, domestic abuse or need support with home-schooling.
Together, we can get through this. By sticking to the rules and continuing to show your Hackney spirit, we can all do our bit to help protect each other and hopefully start to see cases decline through our efforts.
The Council does not have powers to take action against individuals who are not complying with social distancing guidance. If you have concerns about individuals not following social distancing guidance or wearing face masks, please report these directly to the police online or by calling 101.