As first was going to press, the country was starting another round of national lockdowns in response to surging hospital admissions and COVID-19 infection rates.
Schools have closed and everyone in England must stay at home except for permitted reasons such as shopping for essentials, work (if they can’t work from home) and exercise, until at least mid-February.
In Wales, ‘stay at home’ restrictions have been in place since 20 December and education settings are closed until the February half term unless there is a significant fall in COVID-19 cases.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the next few weeks would be the “hardest yet”.
He said he hoped those in the top four priority groups – including all care home residents and their carers, frontline health and social care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable – would receive a first vaccine dose by the middle of next month.
LGA Chairman Cllr James Jamieson said the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines is a source of hope, but that vaccination plans need to be accelerated.
Local knowledge and expertise will be crucial in encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, and councils’ unique relationship with the people they represent means they are well placed to reach out to those in the priority groups and beyond.
He added: “Another national lockdown will be tough for many, but infection rates are clearly rising out of control across the country and the Government is right to act.
“Councils will continue to step up to support residents, especially those who are more vulnerable, businesses and education settings.
“To help, the Government needs to ensure its £500 self-isolation payment support scheme is available to those in need of financial support as a result of the requirement to self-isolate. Councils also need adequate funding to provide discretionary support for those who fall outside the scope of the national scheme to prevent hardship and control the spread of the virus.”
With councils facing huge cost pressures and significant income losses, the LGA is also calling for further funding to address remaining financial pressures in 2020/21.