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Latest Information, Advice, Useful Links and Service Updates (Updated 7 January 2021)

This is a very fast-moving situation and our focus right now is on delaying the spread of coronavirus and ensuring our services are responding well. This is clearly hugely important and requires all of our attention. 

The information below is intended as a resource to keep you up to date with the latest information and advice.

Covid-19 Trusted sources of information
  • The most recent verified data on cases in the UK and Norfolk is available from Public Health England here and the Norfolk Insights website here.
  • Everyone has a key role in promoting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus and www.gov.uk/coronavirus as trusted sources of information to the public.  It is really important to ensure people go to the right sources of information and keep up to date with how to look after themselves. 
  • Keep up to date: We have a dedicated webpage for coronavirus updates in Norfolk and impact on Norfolk County Council services. This is updated regularly so please do re-visit this page.
Latest national announcements
  • National lockdown announced – On 4 January, the Prime Minister addressed the nation to announce a national lockdown and instruct people to stay at home to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives. The full announcement is available here.

Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the four UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England Medical Director also recommended that the UK alert level should move from level 4 to level 5.

On 5 January, the Prime Minister today a statement on coronavirus and provided an update on the rollout of vaccinations.

  • School closures – The update included the announcement that all primary schools, secondary schools and colleges would move to remote learning from 5 January, except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. Early years settings such as nurseries, alternative provision and special schools will remain open and vulnerable children and children of critical workers can continue to use registered childcare, childminders and other childcare activities.

On 5 January the Prime Minister also announced that the BBC is to deliver the biggest education offer in its history across more of its platforms. It will bring together BBC Two, CBBC, BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer and online to deliver a new education offer to children, teachers and parents as a third national lockdown begins. Further information is available here.

  • New grants to support businesses – Following the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, has announced one-off top up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses worth up to £9,000 per property to help businesses through to the spring. A further £594 million is also being made available for councils and the Devolved Administrations to support other businesses not eligible for the grants, that might be affected by the restrictions. The Government is also providing 100% business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses and £1.1 billion existing discretionary funding for councils. The furlough scheme has also been extended to April 2021 and the 100% government backed loans have been extended until March 2021.
Key messages for residents
  • National Lockdown: Stay at Home – Go to GOV.UK for a full list of restrictions and when you can leave your home.

You should always stay local if leaving home – unless it’s necessary to go further, for example to go to work. Stay local means stay in the village, town, or part of the city where you live.

If you have any of the coronavirus symptoms you must self-isolate straightway and get a test. You must continue to isolate if you test positive or are told to isolate by NHS Test and Trace. 

You can be fined up to £10,000 if you do not isolate. Get support to self-isolate.

The Government has also developed a series of posters to help display information about the national lockdown in England.

  • Norfolk Winter Covid Support Scheme – We continue to provide set up a special support scheme to help Norfolk residents get through winter. It’s for anyone who is experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. Further details are available here.
Service Updates
  • Service updates – The most up to date information on council services can be found at  Norfolk County Council services disruptions. The council will continue to monitor its services and, if regulations and circumstances change, it will review its current plans. 
  • Library closures – Due to the current Coronavirus COVID-19 situation all libraries and mobiles are closed temporarily. All items currently on loan will be automatically renewed and no further charges will be incurred until further notice.

Find out how you can access our services, including eBooks and online activities, from home here. There are regular Storytimes, weekly Bounce and Rhyme sessions, reading challenges, heritage podcasts, virtual reading groups and a range of online activities to enjoy. See What’s on in Norfolk Libraries for more information.

Social care and health
  • Covid-19 vaccinations – An update is included in the attached NHS briefing, which includes information on vaccinating care home staff and residents. The NHS have also produced a CV19 vaccine myth buster which also accompanies this briefing. Information about the vaccination programme can be found here: www.norfolkandwaveneyccg.nhs.uk/covid-19-vaccination-programme. 
Education, schools and settings
  • School closures – Following the Government announcement all colleges, primary (reception onwards) and secondary schools are closed until February half term 2021. Early Years childcare settings (including nurseries and childminders) remain open. 

The only exceptions will be the children of key workers and vulnerable children. All children who are not eligible to be in school will receive remote learning. This page will be updated with more information and support for families over the next few days. For full details of the national guidance visit the GOV.UK website.

We will, as previously, support schools in helping to resource extra equipment, as well as providing advice and guidance.

  • Key worker places in schools – Schools across Norfolk are facing increased pressure for places during the current lockdown, with many families requesting key worker places. NCC is working with education leaders and other local authorities in the region to develop a prioritisation criterion – so that children and families with the greatest need are able to access learning in school.

It is likely that in some schools this will mean both parents are expected to be key workers, with priority given to those whose parents work in emergency life-saving services. 

The pressure on places is due to a range of factors, some of which existed in the first lockdown in March, and some of which are unique to this lockdown. For example, there are fewer staff available to work this time, due to staff sickness and isolation. The bubble system for those in school is stricter and the education unions have advocated that staff should work with smaller numbers of children to minimise the risk to their health.

Which parents receive places for their children will vary from school to school, as it will be based on demand and the number of children who are vulnerable who have already been provided with a place.

Some schools will need to prioritise the following groups:

  • Both parents need to be critical workers
  • NHS workers involved in COVID-19 health response, including vaccinations
  • Police and emergency services; social care staff, and education staff providing for vulnerable groups and critical worker children

The full news story can be found here.

We would ask parents, carers and businesses to do all they can to support schools and the lockdown – it’s vital that staff in the NHS can access places for their children in the current situation and so they will be given priority.

Communities
Business and economy 
  • Start or grow a business with the help of your local library – The Business & IP Centre (BIPC) Norfolk, run by Norfolk County Council’s Library & Information Service, is giving the county’s business community a much-needed boost. At a particularly challenging time for businesses, your local library isn’t necessarily the first place you’d think of to go for support but that’s exactly what BIPC Norfolk can offer start-ups and small businesses, with most services being free of charge.

The main BIPC Norfolk centre is housed on the second floor of the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library with hubs in King’s Lynn, Thetford and Great Yarmouth libraries – and plans for opening three more hubs in the county this year. Each site has resources to enable you to research initial ideas, reach new customers, consider and research competitors and suppliers, and check whether your IP – including copyright, trademarks, designs and patents – is protected. Expert staff are on hand to guide you to the resources you need, and the sites offer space to work with free access to PCs and the internet. While libraries are closed, many of these services are still available online.

From your home or office, you can search for business books on the library catalogue and download a wide range of business eBooks or, when restrictions allow, reserve items to collect at your nearest branch. BIPC Norfolk also provides access to a great selection of free online subscriptions with up-to date-business information. These include COBRA (Complete Business Reference Advisor), IBISWorld (expert industry market research and FAME (Financial Analysis Made Easy).

Although Covid-19 has triggered the economic challenges which have sadly resulted in many job losses, people are now much more open to the idea of self-employment – and that’s where BIPC Norfolk can help. Find out how BIPC Norfolk can help you start or grow a business at www.norfolk.gov.uk/bipcnorfolk or email bipcnorfolk@norfolk.gov.uk. Read the full story and case studies here.

  • Peer mentoring programme for social care providers and hospitality companies – New Anglia LEP is offering a free peer mentoring programme for social care providers and hospitality companies which provides more than £1,300 worth of support. Peer Networks is being delivered by New Anglia Growth Hub and will provide 250 ambitious businesses with 18 hours of dedicated mentoring as part of the national economic recovery effort.

In the two-hour virtual sessions, up to eight participants will discuss problems their businesses face and how they might attempt to change things in the wake of Covid-19. Expert facilitators will help them develop trusted support networks to strengthen their business and fulfil their overall growth targets.

To take part, businesses will have been in operation for a year or more, have a turnover of at least £100,000 a year and employ five or more people.  Further information is available here.

General updates
  • Carbon reduction plans unveiled – Wide-ranging plans to reduce the County Council’s carbon emissions from 11.6 million tonnes per year to zero by 2030 have been unveiled. Tree planting, support for green transport and the use of the Burlingham Estate to demonstrate environmental good practice are among the measures being taken by Norfolk County Council.

Last year, the Council adopted an environment policy. An update report to the Council’s Cabinet reveals a series of measures are underway, including: 

  • Plans to plant one million trees over five years, working with partners, communities and landowners
  • A £1.5m investment in active travel, including cycling and walking
  • Development of plans to demonstrate environmental best practice on the County Council’s Burlingham Estate
  • Work with Norwich City Council and UK Power Networks on on-street electric car charging points
  • Further work to install LED streetlights across Norfolk

The Council is also supporting development of a Norfolk and Suffolk 25-year Environment Plan to protect, conserve and enhance the region’s environment.

Cabinet will discuss the report when it meets at 10am on Tuesday, 12 January. Read the reports and view the meeting live – or a recording afterwards.

  • Major highway improvement schemes starting in 2021 – A multi-million pound programme of road maintenance will continue into 2021 with major schemes getting underway in Great Yarmouth, Downham Market and Stalham. The improvements have been made possible thanks to the £22m highway funding for Norfolk that the Department for Transport announced in May 2020, to fund schemes in the 2020-21 financial year.

Norfolk received more than any other local authority in the East of England for maintenance and repairs to the county’s roads, bridges, pavements and cycle paths. At £1.2m the mechanical and electrical upgrades for the 90-year-old Haven Bridge in Great Yarmouth is the largest scheme to be funded as part of the £22m programme. Some upgrade works were completed in the autumn, but other work, which will resolve many of the issues caused by the lifting bridge’s ageing equipment, is set to start in February and is expected to take 13 weeks to complete.

Two key resurfacing schemes are due to be starting in March with a £140,000 scheme in Downham Market to resurface the approach to the level crossing on the A1122, and in Stalham, Stepping Stone Lane will be resurfaced at a cost of £165,000. Across the county the maintenance work will not only repair roads but help to prevent potholes opening-up in the future.

The £22m funding award is in addition to Norfolk County Council’s existing highways capital maintenance budget of £38.6m for the year 2020-2021. Two other major road resurfacing schemes on the A1066 near Thetford, and A1122 near Marham were also made possible by a successful bid for £3.5m from the Department for Transport’s Challenge Fund, which was confirmed in February 2020. The full story is available here.