Recovery plan to protect Islanders and restart the economy

A recovery action plan is being drawn up by the Isle of Wight Council specifically tailored to protect residents and help the Island’s economy bounce back as lockdown restrictions are eased.

The council has pledged to work closely with the local community and businesses to form a bespoke strategy capable of securing an effective and long-lasting economic recovery — while at the same time keeping Islanders ‘Covid-secure’.

Council leader Dave Stewart said: “Since the start of the pandemic, our work has focused on protecting the local community and minimising the impact of coronavirus on the Island’s social and economic wellbeing.

“We have worked hard to maintain critical services to support the most vulnerable in our community, delivering statutory services and assisting our business community to ‘survive’ the pandemic.

“Now we can look at how we ‘restart’ Island life, socially and economically, based around the concept of social distancing.

“We can’t stay in lockdown forever and we need to find the right route to letting people live their lives at the same time as controlling and limiting the spread of the virus.

“The underpinning requirement of the recovery plan will be that it keeps people safe as well as helping to bring our economy alive.”

With shops slowly starting to reopen and more people returning to work, the council is working on a package of temporary measures to ensure people are able to safely access town centre shops and businesses.

Immediate priority will be given to the Island’s busiest shopping areas to ensure there is sufficient space for social distancing, such as queuing at shops and bus stops.

The authority is also offering advice and guidance to businesses to ensure they are practising social distancing inside and immediately outside their premises when they reopen.

The town centre plans are only the first phase of the introduction of wider measures to be developed in partnership with local communities and town and parish councils to support safe and active travel as the Island gets moving again after lockdown.

As the council moves through the response and recovery planning phases of the Covid pandemic, it also needs to consider how it will both recover, restart and reset its own services in the face of a potential £9 million black hole in its finances.

The recovery plan maps out the three-stages to recovery, the first phase of which includes:

  • continuing to support care homes in the current pandemic emergency — the council’s Care Home Support Plan was published last week;
  • developing of testing and contact tracing arrangements to support the NHS Covid-19 app;
  • preparations for the phased reopening of Island schools which began on 1 June;
  • managing any increase in visitors to the Island as restrictions are eased;
  • accelerating and enhancing the Island’s Mental Health Plan with a specific response to Covid-19;
  • reviewing housing support services to tackle the increase in homelessness; and
  • developing funding bids to further improve cycling and walking.

Councillor Stewart added: “Our job as the council is to develop a pathway back and to ensure as we do so that the most vulnerable continue to be supported and protected.

“A key part of recovery will be that everyone continues to take personal responsibility for their actions. This will help us to continue controlling the spread of the virus and allow us to return to something of the life we knew before.

“One of the most impressive elements of the response to the virus here on the Island has been the support and help provided by our many Island volunteer groups.

“I can’t thank them enough for all they have done and will do as we take our first steps to recovery. I see this as an opportunity to harness community energy as we develop our recovery plan.”