As we approach what can, unfortunately, only be described as a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of you will be concerned for vulnerable loved ones, anxious about your livelihoods and frustrated at the thought of further sacrifices.
I wish to reassure Rutland residents that we enter the winter months far more able to tackle COVID-19 than we were as we first encountered COVID-19 in March. We understand the virus much better, we have increased our testing capabilities more than 100 times and we are now testing more people than Italy and France combined we have proven COVID-19 treatments such as dexamethasone and remdesivere, and we have our world-leading scientists making significant progress in finding a vaccine.
We must to a great extent attempt to live with COVID-19, our local schools here in Rutland have returned safely. Despite increases in cases nationally and slightly locally, I am aware of just one case of COVID-19 at a school in Rutland, and am pleased with the school’s robust response and how this makes clear that we have exceptional adherence to COVID guidelines within our community.
Last week, the Chancellor laid out the Government’s Winter economy plan to support livelihoods through the coming months. The Job Support Scheme, launching on November first, will directly support residents’ wages, giving businesses who face depressed demand over Winter the option of keeping employees in a job on shorter hours rather than making them redundant.
Providing employees work a third of normal hours, the Government, together with employers, will then increase wages to cover two thirds of the pay they have lost by reducing their working hours.
On top of this, the Government has also acted to minimise strains on companies’ cashflows, so they can focus their resources on supporting employment. The Pay as You Grow Scheme will extend Bounce Back Loan repayments from six to ten years – almost halving monthly repayments, and the extension to the temporary VAT cut to Spring 2021 will support vulnerable hospitality and tourism businesses. A new payment plan will also allow companies to defer VAT tax liabilities for a further year. This comprehensive package sees the Government continue to put in place extensive economic support packages to tackle this pandemic.
I am acutely aware of the numerous sacrifices residents have made to protect one another since the pandemic began in March. Unfortunately, however, with infection levels rising across our country, we each have a personal responsibility to continue to make sacrifices to protect our communities and country. We must each make the conscious decision to do the right thing by others, sticking to the rule of six, meeting friends outdoors or in COVID-19 secure venues wherever possible, or by downloading the NHS COVID-19 app and self-isolating entirely if advised.
I am eternally grateful to each of you for the role you have played in our national effort to beat COVID-19 so far and have every confidence that Rutland will show the same resilience and community spirit throughout this difficult Winter.