Covid-19 vaccine rollout
Across Herefordshire and Worcestershire more than 180,000 people have now received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. These have been people in the first four priority groups (find out more about the Covid-19 vaccine priority groups).
The vaccination programme will soon be moving on to the remaining five priority groups. The Government hopes to offer vaccinations to everyone in the top nine priority groups by the end of April.
Get a test without symptoms
If you do not have symptoms of Covid-19 and live and work in Worcestershire then you can now get a rapid test (Lateral Flow Test). These tests can give you a result within an hour.
If you test positive you will need to self-isolate immediately. Introducing this type of testing will help drive down cases further by identifying the 1 in 3 people with Covid-19 who have the virus, but show no symptoms, so could be spreading it without knowing.
Remember, if you test negative it is still important you follow social distancing rules. A negative test result only means you did not have Covid-19 at the point you were tested. It does not mean you are free to act normally. Please continue to stay home and only go out for essential purposes.
If you do have symptoms of Covid-19 then self-isolate immediately and book a test online or call 119.
Covid-19 recovery at heart of our revised Five Year Plan
We have made helping our residents, communities and businesses to recover and come back stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic, a key part of our revised Five Year Plan.
It contains actions on rebuilding our economy, helping to strengthen communities, supporting residents to look after their physical and mental health and protecting and enhancing our environment.
We also have plans to make The Malverns a green tourism destination as part of our support for the recovery of the tourism sector.
A proposal is being put to Council next week to raise our share of the Council Tax bill by £5 for the average Band D household from April. We would prefer not to do this but the pandemic has hit our finances hard.
The pandemic has so far cost us about £1.4million and not all of that has been replaced by the Government. There are also future uncertainties around our finances including the speed of the economic recovery and future government decisions on local government funding.
Since 2010 we have saved more than £6 million with less than one per cent coming from reductions to frontline services. By 2026 we need to save another £500,000 which we plan to do through efficiency savings, working with other councils and growing our income but tough decisions are ahead.
By raising the Council Tax this year it will help safeguard the essential services we have all relied heavily upon during this pandemic.
We will still have one of the lowest Council Tax levels in the country. But, if you are struggling to pay then help is available. You can apply for Council Tax Support and help and advice is also available at visit www.malvernhills.gov.uk/money-advice.
Apply for a winter fuel grant
Through our partner Act on Energy, you may be able to get help with paying your fuel bills.
If this does not apply to you then the Government has produced a guide for people struggling to pay essential bills because of the pandemic.
Elections and Covid-19
On 6 May, elections will take place for the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner and Worcestershire County Council.
Efforts are being made to make sure people can vote in person on the day in a safe way. This includes putting in Covid-19 Secure measures at polling stations, such as one-way systems and sanitising common touchpoints regularly.
If you wish to vote in person on polling day then you will be asked to take simple safety measures such as bringing your own pen and pencil. You will also need to wear a face covering inside the polling station and maintain social distancing.
You may decide you would rather stay at home on this occasion. If so, you do not have to lose your voice. You can apply to vote by post or to send someone to vote on your behalf, known as voting by proxy.
The deadline for postal votes for this election is 5pm on 20 April and 27 April for proxy votes. If you are thinking of voting in this way, then we strongly recommend you apply early. This will give you the maximum amount of time possible to receive and return your postal ballot or confirm arrangements for your proxy vote.
You can find out more about how to vote in 2021 elections on our website.
Lots to do at Worcestershire’s libraries
Worcestershire’s libraries may only be offering a limited in-person service at the moment due to lockdown, but they are still offering plenty of virtual activities.
From bounce and rhyme sessions and Lego club to virtual photography and board game bubbles, there is something for people of all ages to try.
Share your experiences with our Covid-19 Memory Bank
We set-up our Covid-19 memory bank as a way of marking our experiences during the pandemic so we could preserve and share them for future generations to learn and reflect on.
So far we have had pictures of artwork, poems, blogs, videos and photos capturing everything from outdoor garden exercise and Zoom calls with friends to people sharing how the pandemic has affected them mentally and emotionally.
We’d like to encourage all of you to contribute something to that memory bank. Some things you could try:
You can upload your experiences on our Covid-19 Memory Bank page.
Residents’ survey results
We have published the results of our annual residents’ survey which show high levels of satisfaction with the way services continue to be delivered and information given to the public and businesses during the pandemic.
The questionnaire, which took place in September 2020, found for most council services more than 70% of people were highly satisfied, with parks and open spaces and waste and recycling services recording satisfaction levels of 86.9% and 84.2% respectively.
Residents were asked about the level of support provided to people during the pandemic so far with 85.7% of people happy with advice and support given on Covid-19, more than 80% happy with information and support for businesses and 71% with help for individuals in need.
The survey also asked about how people thought their habits would change once the pandemic was over. People said they were more likely to shop online in future, support local businesses and exercise every day, while they were less likely to eat out, attend large sports events/entertainment and use public transport.
Support for your health and wellbeing
Even though times are tough at the moment, it is really important you continue to look after your mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Every Mind Matters has various tools to help you support your mental wellbeing.
If you are dealing with difficult feelings about the pandemic then the charity Mind has help and support available.
The Government has also published a guide to looking after your mental wellbeing during the pandemic on its website.
If you are looking to lose weight and get active then the NHS Better Health website has links to a range of online workouts and other tools to help you.
Remember, despite the severe pressure the NHS is under, you should still contact them if you need them and not just for Covid-19 related conditions. You can speak to your pharmacist, use the NHS 111 service or contact your GP. In a life-threatening emergency you should call 999.