Welcome to this week's newsletter.
As you will no doubt be aware, the Government have announced that Plan B restrictions will end in full from next week. We have learnt the hard way during the pandemic that it can be difficult to say things with certainty, but we are likely now past the worst of the Omicron variant. As such, measures like working from home and mandatory face coverings will be ended.
Nonetheless, the vaccine has shown itself to be the best form of protection against Covid, so please do get any doses that you have not currently received and nag friends and family to do the same!
Thanks to the vaccine rollout, we are now in a position where we can start to think more about how we live with Covid long term, as the virus becomes endemic. The Prime Minister announced that he expects not to renew laws at the end of March which make self-isolation a legal requirement – bringing some of the last legal restrictions to an end. This, once again, is only possible thanks to the high levels of vaccine take-up so please do your bit.
If you have not yet had your booster then you might be interested in attending one of the walk-in centres listed below over the next few days. Today I visited the walk-in vaccination clinic at the Crewe Municipal Buildings where members of our armed forces are helping the vaccination effort. Trained military medical personnel have been deployed in centres like this across the country to aid the NHS in the national rollout effort. If you are still to have your first or second jab these too can be done here.
Business Interruption Grants, for businesses that have been disrupted due to Covid since July, are still available. Additionally, the maximum amount which can be given out has been increased from £5,000 to £10,000. Businesses that have received the full £5,000 grant can apply to have this increased. There are also grants of up to £5,000 to help businesses go digital. More information about these below.
I am very aware that some people think that the BBC doesn't make the best use of their money and needs to live within their means. You might be pleased to know the government has announced a freezing of the TV Licence Fee.
If you know someone in year 12 thinking about doing an apprenticeship as an alternative to a traditional university degree the Sutton Trust has now opened up applications for their Apprenticeship Summer School. This will give an understanding of degree apprenticeships, and help someone decide if that would be the right choice for them. Further info on how to apply below with some key criteria.
Have a great weekend.
Coronavirus Updates - Plan B Over
The latest data suggests that we are past the worst of Omicron, and as such, the Prime Minister announced this week that Plan B restrictions are ending. It was right that, with the emergence of a new, unknown variant, that we were cautious – prioritising the health of the public and doing what we can to prevent its spread and the overwhelming of the NHS. Nonetheless, the approach the Government took was balanced and proportionate, with England remaining more open and freer than other regions of the UK and other places in Europe. We also have the success of the booster programme for helping keep transmission and hospitalisations as low as possible.
Children in schools are no longer required to wear face masks in classrooms, and their required use in communal areas of schools will also be removed shortly. In addition, guidance to work from home has ended, so people can once again return to their offices and workplaces.
Other restrictions will be removed on Thursday. While still being encouraged, the legal requirement to wear face covering in places such as shops and public transport will be removed. There will also no longer be any mandatory Covid Passes to enter certain venues, although the venues themselves may choose to continue with them. Finally, restrictions on visits to care homes will also be eased, with details being announced over the coming days.
Covid is becoming endemic, much like flu, and will be something we have to live with. The laws which make it a legal requirement to self-isolate will expire on 24th March. It is expected that these will not be renewed, with perhaps the date being brought forward, should the data suggest this is safe to do so.
While this is good news, we must remain cautious over the rest of the winter. One of the main reasons we are in this positive position is the vaccine, which has been our best defence against the virus. Around 90% of those currently in intensive care with Covid do not have the booster, so I would urge anyone who is missing any of their doses to have theirs as soon as possible.
Self-Isolation Period Cut
The minimum period of self-isolation for those with Covid-19 has been cut to 5 days. This can occur with a negative lateral flow test on both days 5 and 6 of isolation.
This is a sensible and balanced approach, allowing more freedom, and helping keep essential public services running, while also keeping people safe.
Boosters for 16 and 17 Year Olds
Booster vaccines can now be booked for 16- and 17-year-olds. To be eligible, three months must have passed since their second jab, and 12 weeks must have passed since they last tested positive for Coronavirus.
Ensuring a greater level of protection for 16- and 17-year-olds will ensure that schools, colleges and sixth forms remain open for face-to-face teaching, providing the best possible future chances for young people, whilst also keeping everyone safe from the virus.
Licence Fee Frozen
The Government has announced that the TV licence fee will be frozen for 2 years, helping keep the cost of living down for hard-working families.
Importantly I hope it will encourage the BBC to live within its means, especially when it comes to high salaries for executives and presenters.
Sutton Trust Apprenticeship Summer School
Are you in year 12 and hoping to do an apprenticeship as an alternative to university? The Sutton Trust has now opened up applications for their Apprenticeship Summer School, which will give you an understanding of degree apprenticeships, and help you decide if they are the right path for you.
They have some criteria which will improve your chances of being successful. You do not need to meet them all, but the more you do the better your chances. These include:
- Achieved at least five GCSEs at grades 9 – 6 (A*-B), including English and Maths. A minimum of two of these qualifications should be at grades 9 – 7.
- Being the first generation in your family to gain a degree/degree-level qualification.
- Have been eligible for Free School Meals whilst at secondary school.
- Live in a neighbourhood where there is a low rate of people going to higher education or a high level of deprivation.
- Went to a school where fewer people than average go onto higher education or a higher-than-average proportion of students who qualify for Free School Meals.
- Have been looked after or in care.
Find out more and apply here: https://www.suttontrust.com/our-programmes/apprenticeship-summer-school/
Business Interruption Grants
Applications for business interruption grants are still open.
Any business in Cheshire East that has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic since 19th July 2021 may now be eligible for grants of up to £10,000 - previously this was £5,000.
Businesses who have been awarded £5,000 may apply to top this up to £10,000.
You may be eligible if you have had reduced staff capacity, have had to close, or have seen a reduction in cash flow or demand as a result of Covid, including the latest Omicron variant.
Applications close midnight on 28th February or earlier if all of the fund has been given out - so get your applications in as early as possible.
For more information, and to apply, visit the link here: https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/business/support_for_business/business-interruption-fund.aspx
Positive news that, once again, unemployment in the UK has fallen. In December, the number of people in work rose by 184,000 – showing that the Government’s plan for jobs is working. The workforce now stands at over 400,000 above pre-pandemic levels, indicating that we are on the path to recovery.
While there are, no doubt, still tough times ahead, this is very welcome news.
Help to Grow
The Government has launched its ‘Help to Grow’ scheme, to aid businesses in adapting to the modern, digital world. Under this scheme, grants of up to £5,000 will be available for small businesses to buy approved digital software. Advice will also be given on choosing the right technology to help grow your business and improve productivity.
Small businesses will play a significant role in ensuring the UK is at the front of the worldwide digital revolution – creating jobs and opportunities across the country.
Veteran Support Action Plan
A £70 Million plan, made up of over 60 commitments to help veterans in civilian life, has been launched.
This includes programmes which will help veterans find work in the public sector which utilises their unique skills, such as teaching and prisons. They will also be provided with mental health support, and support for families will also be extended.
The full plan can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/veterans-strategy-action-plan-2022-to-2024/veterans-strategy-action-plan-2022-to-2024-html#understanding-our-veteran-community
Walk in Vaccination Clinics
Today I visited the walk-in vaccination clinic at the Crewe Municipal Buildings where members of our armed forces are helping the vaccination effort. Trained military medical personnel have been deployed in centres like this across the country to aid the NHS in the national rollout effort.
It was also great to speak and thank the volunteers and NHS workers who have made our rapid vaccine rollout possible. Their work means that we are in the position we are in today, where we can begin to ease restrictions once more.
The walk-in vaccination centre is open once again tomorrow (Sat 21st Jan) between 10am and 3:30pm to anyone 16+ their first, second or booster doses of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine - so why not go down if you still need one of your doses.
The following vaccination clinics are also open over the next few days. If you are eligible for one of your doses, why not head down some time? You can check the eligibility criteria here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/who-can-get-the-vaccine/
Crewe Municipal Buildings (Town Hall), Earle Street, Crewe, CW1 2BJ:
Saturday 22 January (10am-3:30pm) - Pfizer and AstraZeneca (1st, 2nd and booster)
Hollowood Chemists, West Street, Crewe, CW1 3WQ
Saturday 22 January (8:30am-7:30pm) - Pfizer and Moderna (1st, 2nd and booster)
Sunday 23 January (8:30am-7:30pm) - Pfizer and Moderna (1st, 2nd and booster)
Monday 24 January (8:30am-7:30pm) - Pfizer and Moderna (1st, 2nd and booster)
The following are road closures for the week ahead as reported by Cheshire East.
Elm Drive, Crewe – Until 25th February
Monks Lane, Crewe – 24th January until 26th January
Shavington Bypass (From Newcastle Road to A500) 24th January until 25th January
Barthomeley Road (Between Mill Lane and Radway Green Road) - 24th January