In an effort to get the Island up and running again after the first lockdown, the council set out key actions it would take, in partnership with others, to secure a successful recovery from the pandemic.
Since the plan was first proposed, which featured schemes like the Island Gift Card, creating co-working spaces and the approval of plans at Branstone Farm, the nation has been in two more lockdowns with the Island going from the lowest tier to the highest in a week as the new variant strain spread.
With more than 4,000 COVID-19 cases recorded on the Isle of Wight, council figures are now facing a challenging environment to sort out its recovery priorities.
Cabinet member for the COVID recovery, Councillor Stuart Hutchinson said:
“When we set up the plan we were looking at several phases. We have now reactivated those responses to this new wave.
“We were hoping to have moved towards the emergence phase by this time … With this second phase, which appears to be significantly worse, we have got very little capacity left, we are not going into the recovery stage anytime soon.
“I think we are probably in lockdown for at least another month … the practical issue is that everything will now be pushed back by several weeks while we do our damnedest to contain this phase.”
The council’s director of regeneration, Chris Ashman, said some actions were able to start during ‘brief windows of opportunity’ but others will be put aside to wait out the latest lockdown. He said:
“The normal approach to an emergency is you have the issue, you deal with the immediate impacts and you coordinate the effective recovery from that. Clearly, the pandemic is an ongoing incident and continues to be a challenge for us all.“We have had to reactive all of our previous response arrangements and while we may be better placed this time knowing what we are facing it does not lessen the challenge that all services face in responding and providing support to the community and businesses.
“Trying to bring forward some semblance of recovery from that agenda is quite a challenging task.”
A ‘significant step forward’ was the Island being awarded for the government’s kickstart programme, which helps provide more employment opportunities for young people.
The Island Gift Gard scheme was also launched before Christmas, putting money back into the local economy, but just 70 cards were bought.
Cllr Hutchinson went on to say the latest wave hit the Island like a tsunami, with council staff being redeployed to help manage pressure points due to the need of the Island as well as filling gaps where people have had to self-isolate. He said:
“I would like us to get to a point where we can say we have done this and done that but at the moment every single aspect of the council’s operation has been affected by this wave. I am worried about some of the council’s staff; they are very tired.”