Let’s Stick With It Suffolk

Published

Column by Matthew Hicks, Leader of the Council, published 29 June 2020.

With the number of coronavirus cases and deaths reducing, lockdown measures being eased and, this week, shops, pubs and many more businesses reopening, I’m sure many people feel like COVID-19 is over. It really isn’t.

The measures that have been taken have been successful in slowing the spread of this deadly virus and limiting the number of families ripped apart by the loss of loved ones. The vast majority of the public have been diligent and committed to following the guidelines and doing the right thing for society. This is especially the case in Suffolk, where not only have people stuck to the guidelines but also stepped up to support vulnerable people in their communities. If ever there was a time to be Suffolk and proud, it’s now.

This achievement isn’t enough though and in many ways, now is the time to work even harder to combat COVID-19.

I heard someone say something recently that resonated with me: ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. What they we’re talking about was how even with lockdown easing, we still need to exercise common sense and sound judgement in our actions. I’ve been in lockdown too so I know how tough it’s been, but when you see scenes of crowded Bournemouth beaches, we have to ask ourselves questions about our choices and actions. Yes we can go to the beach, but when you get there and are faced with huge crowds, shouldn’t we turn back or head somewhere else?

Thankfully, in Suffolk, people are generally being more sensible. I’ve heard examples from this weekend, such as Aldeburgh, where people were on the beach but following social distancing rules. That’s exactly the sort of thing we need to do to beat back coronavirus and protect our loved ones.

I hope you will have heard the Stick With It Suffolk message that the Suffolk Resilience Forum has been promoting. That message is even more relevant now as we try to banish the virus and get our economy and society moving again. We have many more physical freedoms now, but to continue enjoying them we need to keep washing our hands regularly with soap and water, social distancing and looking out for each other. Now isn’t the time to let up. We need to stick with it for everyone’s sake.

An important part of controlling COVID-19 is the Government’s test and trace programme. Locally we’re responsible for developing plans to control any local outbreaks, and today these plans have been published on Suffolk County Council’s website.

This Local Outbreak Control Plan will be triggered where there are suspected or confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks in any setting or community within the county. Like much of our COVID-19 response, this plan builds upon existing relationships and processes in place with partner agencies across Suffolk. The plan outlines how complex cases will be managed in more than 30 high-risk places, locations and communities, in particular care homes and schools. It also outlines local testing capacity, use of data to identify and proactively manage outbreaks and contact tracing in complex settings.

Delivery of the Local Outbreak Control Plan will be co-ordinated by the Suffolk COVID-19 Coordination Centre. All information (including outbreak notifications) and national guidance will be received here, which enables a co-ordinated response allowing tasks to be allocated to the most appropriate partners.

Led by the Director of Public Health at Suffolk County Council, it is a complex piece of work to pull together, but absolutely essential in our role in preventing, managing and containing local outbreaks of coronavirus.

However, whilst this plan outlines how Suffolk will best respond to outbreaks, prevention of the virus is absolutely vital in making sure its prevalence continues to decline in Suffolk. We are not yet in the clear with COVID, there is still more to do. That’s why we need to Stick With It or we’ll be stuck with it, for who knows now long. We can do this if we work together as Suffolk likes to do.