Wednesday 7 April 2021
The Cultural Recovery Fund created by the government to provide financial support for cultural and heritage organisations across the country has been vital during this year of Covid-19. I was pleased to see on Good Friday the announcement of further grants for our area, worth over half a million pounds. This included over £200,000 for the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway, over £100,000 for Folkestone’s live music venue, The Chambers, as well as grants for the Silver Screen cinema, Screen South and local arts organisations Strange Cargo, and Sally Hogarth Studio. All organisations that have been restricted from opening to the public have seen a severe reduction to their income as a result of the social contact rules, and that applies to cultural organisations as well as other businesses. That’s why it’s so welcome to see this help being made available.
From Monday next week, 12 April, there will be a further easing of the restrictions with outdoor pubs, shops, gyms and hairdressers re-opening, as we continue along our roadmap to removing all social contact restrictions by 21 June. The seven-day average for the number of new infections from COVID in Folkestone and Hythe is just two, and on some days in the last week no new COVID cases have been reported at all. This is a remarkable transformation from the situation at the beginning of the year, made possible by the lockdown and the roll out of the vaccine. As many countries in Europe are now entering a major third wave of coronavirus outbreaks, it really brings home the difference that the vaccine is making.
The great Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 and ’19 took more lives in the UK than COVID-19 has, but it came at a time when the country was exhausted by a world war, there was no vaccine and little understanding of how viruses spread. However, it broke out in three major waves, in spring 1918, then in the winter that year, and again in the following spring. COVID-19 would so far appear to be following a similar pattern, so it raises the question as to whether the coronavirus will have gone by the summer, not to return. We cannot be certain of this and we can see that around the world mutations of the virus have developed and grown. The vaccines tested and deployed so far have been able to provide protection against serious covid infection, but it may be, especially for people in the most vulnerable groups, that update vaccines and booster jabs may become an ongoing part of life, just as we have previously encouraged people to get their annual winter flu jab. We are fortunate that as a country we have the resources and infrastructure to deliver this. In the same way, asking people to maintain an up to date record of their ‘covid status’, in terms of whether they have the anti-bodies to protect themselves from the virus, either because they’ve had had it already, are vaccinated or have some other natural immunity, may also need to become something that we have to get used to. As things return to normal, and in particular as we see again mass participation events like football matches and music festivals, we will need to remain vigilant in case new outbreaks of the virus occur.