As I write this, the first dose of the Oxford vaccine has been administered to an 82 year old in Oxford. This is a pivotal moment for the country, and I hope that this is the first step back towards normality.

I know that many of you are keen to access this vaccine as soon as you possibly can and we know that both the NHS and the vaccine manufacturers are working really hard to make sure that this is achieved in the quickest time possible. All we ask is that you wait to be contacted. The NHS has significant experience in the rollout of vaccines and they have a clear procedure that they are following, which is to target the most vulnerable in our society first. You can find out more about the vaccine and the local response here: Sussex COVID-19 vaccination programme .

As you will be aware, the Government has introduced a new national lockdown. This action has been taken due to a significant rise in infection rates across the country, caused by a new strain of coronavirus which is much more transmissible. The Government is concerned about the impact that this is having on our hospitals, which are under more pressure from coronavirus than any time since the start of the pandemic. I know how much our residents have appreciated the care and support our local NHS services have provided them over the past nine months - they truly have been amazing - and so it is vital that we play our part by staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.

To keep in touch with the latest local updates, I would encourage you to sign up to our regular email newsletter and visit our social media sites. You can also find more information about the national restrictions on the Government website .

We know that these are really difficult times for our local businesses and we are doing everything we can to support them. If you own a business and you are affected by the new restrictions, you can find out about and apply for the grants that are available here: Coronavirus support for businesses. Over the past year, many of our businesses have adapted their services to offer online or delivery services. Please continue to support local wherever you possibly can. This also gives me the opportunity to thank all of those who supported our 'support local' campaign over the Christmas period. We've received some fantastic feedback from residents, visitors and partners. Although the campaign focused on Christmas, both ourselves and the Observer series have been encouraging people to support local since the start of this pandemic - and this is something we need to continue to focus on as we move forward.

As things currently stand, all of our services are operating as usual, but as infection rates rise, it is possible that this could change. Up until now, there has been very little impact on any of our services and we hope that this will continue, but you can find the latest service status here: . Due to the current restrictions, our Novium Museum and Tourist Information Centre has unfortunately once again had to close its doors, but they are still offering a range of virtual tours and activities  on their website.

Although things may seem challenging and difficult at the moment, we are planning for positive times ahead. One such project is the 2022 Season of Culture to celebrate our amazing cultural and entertainment organisations within the district. The season also will mark Chichester Festival Theatre's 60th anniversary; Pallant House Gallery's 40th anniversary; The Novium Museum's 10th anniversary; and, the Chichester International Film Festival's 30th anniversary. It also marks the 10th anniversary of the Festival of Chichester. The season offers us to the opportunity to celebrate the district's cultural achievements, while engaging local people in a diverse range of activities and events. We will be delivering this project in partnership with Chichester Festival; Pallant House Gallery; and our Novium Museum. You can find out more about this and other upcoming projects and initiatives at latest news.

Please continue to take care of yourself and others.

Best Wishes

 

Cllr Eileen Lintill

Leader of Chichester District Council