To the residents of Blaenau Gwent,
Today we had the Welsh Government announcement following the latest three-week review into Covid-19 measures here in Wales.
The biggest change announced was that non-essential shops and businesses can re-open from this Monday, providing they can safely accommodate customers within current social distancing guidelines.
We are continuing to see a downward trend in new cases of the virus here in Gwent, and this is of course testament to everything we have done collectively over the past few months to follow Government advice and help slow the spread. The message from the Welsh Government for now remains to Stay Local, and we must all do everything we can to follow this advice.
We now have in place a contact tracing system, in Wales this is called ‘Test, Trace, Protect’, which is designed to identify new confirmed cases and follow the potential spread of infection. Advice will be issued to those who have come into contact with a confirmed case by a trained contact tracer. The system is an essential part of easing lockdown measures and we must all play our part in this. There is more information on our website, and our social media channels, about what you need to do should you become symptomatic – we should all familiarise ourselves with this.
We will be working on a Gwent regional basis in relation to recovery work and the cautious phased reinstating of some services. We have started to reintroduce some services which we know are popular with residents including bulky waste collections and opening the Household Waste & Recycling Centre (HWRC) in Ebbw Vale. The HWRC opened using a booking only system and this has run very smoothly to date. Thank you to our residents who have taken this on board and used the site under the new measures. We have actually received many positive comments about the booking system. Many of our services will look differently when they do restart so please support us in making sure we keep everyone safe.
The opening of shops and smaller businesses is great news for our towns here in Blaenau Gwent, where I know that shop owners have been bursting to get back to work. We must remember that this is a livelihood for these people and for many of them it’s a job that they love doing. We have worked hard with the Welsh Government over the past few months to make sure that financial support has been available on a local and national level and has made its way to these businesses. I know that many of them have found new and innovative ways of serving customers in the meantime and I applaud them for that, but I know that many of them will be glad to open their doors and welcome customers in once again. I know I am looking forward to visiting a few of my favourite shops around town, as I have always done, and I’d like to encourage people to do the same. I have heard many comments that people have looked to local traders during this Pandemic and have not been disappointed, so let’s continue this. Remember, Shop Local and support our local economy & town centres.
We are busy working with schools to reopen to groups of learners from June 29th. This is a chance for pupils to attend a session arranged with their school to ‘check in & catch up’ in order to prepare for September. The focus will be on wellbeing and an opportunity for teachers to see how children are doing in terms of home learning. We today made a decision as a Council to end the current school term on Friday, 17th July as originally planned, in order to give certainty to school staff and families.
There is a considerable amount of work going into these plans to safely reopen, and we are working closely with all schools on the arrangements. There are many guidelines that have to be followed including on social distancing, cleaning and hygiene and transport, all of which impact on the normal way a school operates.
It will of course feel very different for pupils and school staff, but as social distancing seems set to stay for the foreseeable future it gives everyone the opportunity to sample the new normal. Going forward it is likely to be a blend of classroom and home learning for our children & young people, and I would like to say thank you to everyone involved with this important work in Blaenau Gwent. It’s very easy to criticise, and we’ve seen a lot of that in the news lately, but our schools had to quickly move to this new way of learning and I think they’ve done a fantastic job. Throughout there has been a huge emphasis on the well-being and mental health of our children and young people, which I’m sure we can all agree is the most important during what has been a strange and anxious time in their lives.
We are holding the first virtual meeting of our Executive Committee next week, and this will be uploaded to our Council website following the meeting. We’ll be discussing our financial position, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 response, which has inevitably had an impact on our budgets. We’ll also be talking about how we move forward as a council, and how we can learn from this time to adapt our working practices in the future.
We continue to support vulnerable residents and those who are officially shielding as recommended by the Government through our Locality Response Teams. Those shielding have been advised to do so until mid-August when it will be reviewed again. We’re working with a range of community organisations and volunteers to help people with shopping; medication and other daily tasks. Some people just want a reassuring phone call and someone to talk to, we’re here for them. Thanks to everyone working on this – you’re incredible!
Please continue to follow our social media accounts which are updated frequently:
• Facebook – @blaenaugwentcbc
• Twitter - @BlaenauGwentCBC
For now - please continue to follow the advice and keep your families safe & well.
Councillor Nigel Daniels
Leader Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council