It's time to focus virus 'contain' funding on families and streets

By Cllr John Fuller OBE | 01 March 2021

‘When the facts change, you need to alter your position’ - so says Warren Buffet, the legendary long-term investor.

And much has changed since the Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF) was unveiled last October, yet the guidance for using it remains unchanged. The Prime Minister’s roadmap promises an additional £400m into our local effort, with this new investment we need a new outlook.

There is no more talk of regional lock-downs. Over 100  MPs registered their displeasure in December and there is no suggestion that that number has reduced.

Instead, as the economy contemplates emergence into the bright spring sunshine, the narrative is about hyper-local, highly flexible and customised bespoke approaches.

In South Norfolk we are conducting such testing of 9,500 residents and workers in the lovely Market Town of Diss, and others have done likewise. This is the canvass on which we will now fight this disease.

It’s critical that everyone gets jabbed.  Whilst our NHS is responsible for the injections within the precincts of the vaccination centre, it's the local councils that are convening the whole ecosystem that gets people to their appointment. This is a task made more complex by the extensions to the clinically extremely vulnerable group.

Until now the elderly and vulnerable have been only too grateful to turn up, and on time.  It's becoming clear that, as we move down the vulnerability scale, this is a task that can only get more difficult.

There are groups in our community who will need to be coaxed to get immunised. Only if they become protected can we all start to taste freedom again.

There will be 80% of the effort getting the last 20% into the vaccine centre.   Once again, this is final mile, doorstep work that district councils are organised to perform.

So, to face this new normal, now is the time to recognise that things have changed since October and to recalibrate and resource the COMF activity on preparing for a series of hyper-local responses that directly focus on families and streets.

The review has been a long time coming, but time to further procrastinate is not a luxury we can afford.

Cllr John Fuller OBE is chairman of the District Councils’ Network

@JohnFullerOBE

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