I want to thank our NHS colleagues again for listening to our residents and delivering this site in the city centre. Since January, we have been meeting with our NHS colleagues on a weekly basis to receive updates on the vaccination progress and to share concerns and questions raised by our local residents. We have seen directly just how hard they have been working - not only to deliver the programme at speed, but also to respond to the needs and concerns of our local communities. We know how much our local residents appreciate this and this was very evident when I was at Westgate Leisure Centre. Some people have been asking us about parking arrangements, and I'm pleased to let you know that we are currently providing two hours free parking to users of the centre.

It's also worth explaining that the Westgate Leisure Centre is run differently to the GP-led vaccination sites, and appointments are accessed through the national booking system. Instructions on how to use this system will be sent to you in a letter when it is your time to receive your vaccination.

This week, we've also heard from the Prime Minister about how the country will come out of lockdown. He has outlined that our safe exit from lockdown will take place in four steps; and at each step, restrictions will be lifted across the whole of England at the same time. The decision on each step will depend on the data at each point. This will start with the reopening of the schools on 8 March, as well as allowing two people to meet for recreation, including a coffee or picnic in outdoor spaces. The Government then hopes to reintroduce outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens), which will be limited either to six people or two households from 29 March. Following this, they hope that gyms, hairdressers, non-essential retail, domestic self-catering holidays and outdoor hospitality will be able to reopen after 12 April. Most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will hopefully be lifted after 17 May, while indoors the Rule of 6 or two households will apply. Most businesses in all but the highest risk sectors should be able to reopen by this point. This will include indoor hospitality. The Government hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact after 21 June. The full details can be found here: COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 .

When our businesses start to reopen, it's really important that we all continue to play our part by supporting local. The past year has been tough on us all, but especially our local businesses. We all need to help our local businesses to recover and get back on their feet. We know from the feedback we had from our Christmas 'support local' campaign how much our businesses appreciate the support you have already shown them. It's important that we all continue to do this over the months and years ahead.

As a council we have continued to offer lots of support to businesses, from issuing grants to offering advice and guidance. Last Friday, we held a webinar for local businesses to explain all of the financial support that is available and to provide them with the chance to ask questions. I'm pleased to say that over 200 businesses signed up for the online event and that it was really well received. If you do own a business and haven't yet applied for support, please do so by visiting: Coronavirus support for businesses. This web page also lists the other support that is available.

We also want people to know that we are also here to help if they are struggling financially. Support is available in a number of ways, including help with your bills or rent. We have pulled together advice on many of the options available on our website and this can be found at: Help with finances affected by coronavirus.

Please also remember that our dedicated coronavirus web pages provide detailed information for all of our residents and businesses, from the latest guidance to the support that is available at: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and we are issuing a weekly email newsletter which you can sign up to at: news alerts. Please also consider following us on social media if you don't already. There you will find the latest updates on the current pandemic, as well as the services we are delivering to you.

What's great is that there is now light at the end of the tunnel and that if everything goes to plan that we should return to some sort of normality by July. In the meantime, it is really important that we continue to follow the Government's advice - even if you have already received the vaccine. By working together we will get through this.

Please take care and stay safe.

Best Wishes

Cllr Eileen Lintill

Leader of Chichester District Council