Update from South Oxfordshire District Council:

People in Oxfordshire are being advised to be extra vigilant, particularly over half-term, as cases of Coronavirus continue to spread across the county.

Evidence shows that, in the past two weeks, the virus has spread to a much wider age range across the county and is no longer confined to younger people in urban areas. Hospital admissions have begun to increase as a result.

Oxfordshire County Council's Director for Public Health Ansaf Azhar said: "Across all areas of the county, we are starting to see a significant shift in the spread of the virus from people in their teens and 20s to older and more vulnerable age groups. This is a really concerning development. We know that, once the virus starts to spread to more vulnerable groups, then hospital cases will rise and deaths will inevitably follow.

"We have seen what's been happening across the north of England and how the virus has quickly taken hold across huge swathes of the community. Based on the current trajectory of the virus, we could well find ourselves in a similar position in just a few weeks' time if we do not take collective action now."

"With half-term approaching, as well as events such as Halloween, Bonfire Night and Diwali coming up, it's very easy to get caught up in the excitement of meeting up and celebrating with friends and family. But we mustn't forget about COVID. We need to do everything we can to keep our families and communities safe and stop the spread.

"I know the temptation will be to meet up and socialise over half-term. However, the virus thrives when people are in close contact with one another. So I would strongly urge everyone to limit their social interactions and focus instead on the many COVID-secure family activities that are taking place over half-term."

Oxfordshire is currently at the 'medium' or tier 1 level in the COVID-19 alert system. This is the national three-tier system, which classifies areas as medium, high or very high based on their numbers of infection and overall risk level.

Discussions have taken place this week with central Government about whether Oxfordshire should move to the 'high' alert level, given concerns over the spread of the virus to age groups beyond people in their teens and 20s to potentially more vulnerable groups.

The decision has been taken not to move the county to a high alert level at this stage. However, the situation is being monitored extremely closely and Oxfordshire's Director of Public Health and Council Leaders are pushing for a move to happen as soon as possible.

Moving to a high alert level would mean that residents could not socialise with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: "With cases in all age groups across the county now beginning to spread between households I am very worried about Covid spreading faster during half-term. Having seen the local data and discussed the situation with the Director for Public Health and council officers I am convinced that this delay on restricting households mixing will put local lives at risk. While numbers are lower than some other parts of England, the exponential growth in cases that occurs means we need to act urgently."

Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: "With the advice of the Director for Public Health being supported by all local council leaders from all political parties and our two prestigious universities it would seem very illogical not to follow it."

More information: https://www.southoxon.gov.uk/uncategorised/oxfordshire-close-to-high-covid-19-alert-level/

Didcot Civic Hall partners the NHS in a bid to beat Covid-19

Didcot Civic Hall and Didcot Town Council has pledged to work in partnership with the NHS in any possible way to support their life-saving work during the Covid – 19 pandemic. The Civic Hall has been included as an official partner by making the venue available to any sector of the emergency services. At the end of May – and two further dates in June – the Civic Hall will open its doors to help the NHS Blood and Transplant services. For H&S reasons the Civic Hall will be close on those dates to avoid any cross contamination and to give full support to the NHS staff. All customers will be informed when this will take place.

Andre Silva, General Manager of Didcot Civic Hall says: "We are delighted to be helping support the national efforts to beat this virus. We have made the building available for the NHS and emergency services to use in any way they think fit." Cllr Pam Siggers, Chair of the Civic Hall Management Committee: "We feel it is essential to play our part in this national emergency. The Civic Hall belongs to the residents of Didcot and I am sure that they will be pleased to see the facilities of this public building being used in the best possible way rather than remaining closed."

Find out more about the Civic Hall at the following websites. www.didcotcivichall.co.uk/ and www.didcot.gov.uk For further information contact Andre Silva – 07368 535610

A spokesperson for South Oxfordshire District Council said: "We're very pleased Didcot Civic Hall has been chosen for this important role – we have a lot of key workers living locally, so it's an ideal site. Didcot Town Council and the Civic Hall will do a great job to accommodate the testing site.

Andre Silva, General Manager of Didcot Civic Hall says: "We're delighted to be able to contribute to the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic and help the Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum (TV LRF) and the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC), to support the British Army with the Covid-19 testing system in our car park. We expect to see a Mobile Testing Unit start operating from, Monday 11th May."

For safety reasons, only the council, NHS and army staff can use the Civic Hall premises during this time with ID card and all safety equipment.

People needing to be tested will also be allowed to access the car park for their tests ONLY, as per the Government's directions and will need to adhere to everything the Army advise (e.g., stay in their vehicles for the duration of their visit).

Anyone who suspects they have symptoms is advised to book a test via the Government's website and to not turn up at the Civic Hall without an appointment.

A message from Mayor of Didcot, Councillor Anthony Dearlove:

During this period, we all find ourselves in unprecedented times.

Didcot Town Council's top priority is the safety of our staff and members of the public.

The Council continues to operate, but some services may experience interruption.

Our office staff are working from home where possible; outdoor staff are doing the necessary to ensure the open spaces remain safe - and Council Meetings are currently suspended until the Government allows us to meet remotely to continue essential Council business.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank key workers that continue to work on the front line, especially the NHS & emergency services.

Thanks also to all the local charities and individuals who are working hard to help the vulnerable in our community. These are difficult times, but together we will get through this.

Anthony Dearlove
Mayor for Didcot

Message from Councillor Mocky Khan, Leader of the council

After the meeting of the Council's COVID-19 Crisis Management Team, we have decided that Didcot Town Council and Civic Hall will remain CLOSED until 30th April 2020, when we will review the policy based on Government advice and guidelines.

The council will be providing services via phone, email and on the website www.didcot.gov.uk Please do keep checking our website as we will be communicating advice relating to business, community and residents.

Although Council and Committee meetings are postponed, where possible we will be using technology to discuss issues and in this unprecedented situation, emergency powers will be used to make key decisions. Our aim is to continue to keep the council functioning and to deliver to residents. The advice is to get exercise and fresh air while adhering to social distancing measures. We have noticed that a large group of people are using the playgrounds, on safety reasons, we have decided to close all playgrounds until further notice - the parks will remain open. I shall update you on a regular basis. In the meantime, please follow Government advice, self isolate if showing any symptoms and look out for your friends, family and those that are vulnerable.

Please do contact us if you need anything, we will try and help or guide you in the right direction. In these unpredictable times, we all need to stick together.

Cllr Mocky Khan - Leader of the Council.

Information leaflet from Didcot Town Council and Didcot Civic Hall