Idea Stores reopening, summer events for families and the UK's recovery roadmap

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Tower Hamlets bannerMessage from the Mayor

As this most unusual school year concludes, I want to say thank you to all of our schools and school staff for their hard work this year, especially since lockdown started in late March. In truth, most never closed, keeping the doors open for key worker and vulnerable children, and supporting those who couldn’t attend. As things have eased the numbers attending have expanded further but most children have remained out of the classroom. Supporting children who couldn’t attend with remote learning has worked for some but, let’s be honest, has presented challenges for students and families. It hasn’t been easy for schools, or families, so let’s hope we can get back, and recover that lost learning after the break. All of this reminds us how our schools support the whole family, not just learning, but other support and letting adults get out to work too.

We hope you can all enjoy the summer, whether you are catching up or slowing down. I look forward to the return of every child to our schools in September. Over the summer, we now have a schedule of over 200 virtual and socially distanced indoor and outdoor events online for families. We hope you’ll take advantage of these great opportunities – take a look at the free events on offer this year.

Of course, the challenges aren’t over for us just yet, and we must remain vigilant. Local outbreaks and spikes have happened elsewhere, and it’s crucial we keep playing our part to protect each other in Tower Hamlets to make sure this doesn’t happen here. Just this morning, the prime minister outlined the next chapter in the government’s roadmap out of the pandemic, which is an important next step in our response and recovery effort. You can have a look at the roadmap online.

More locally, please stay up to date with the current guidelines to make sure you’re doing everything you’re supposed to. This includes wearing a mask on public transport and, from Friday 24 July, in shops as well. Please make sure you wear a face covering anywhere where social distancing is more difficult too. Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, and every time you arrive home. These simple hygiene measures are as important as ever as we start to enjoy some more freedom that the easing of lockdown brings. You may have heard it many times but the fact remains this is still vital!

From next week, I’m pleased to say that two of our Idea Stores will begin to reopen with a reduced service and strict safety measures in place. Our staff are working hard to allow a limited number of walk-in visits at Chrisp Street and Whitechapel Idea Stores, but please book a place online to avoid disappointment. It will be fantastic to start welcoming back our communities to these much-loved facilities slowly and safety. Don’t forget, you can also borrow books online. We are opening other services step by step, including soon, some of our leisure centres. Wait for announcements!

If you’re going to a park this weekend, please enjoy it responsibly, put your litter in a bin or take it home with you. A number of you have asked about the children’s playgrounds – like a number of other councils, lockdown overlapped with essential safety checks we have to carry out. Be patient - they will open again in the next couple of weeks, but they need to pass their independent safety checks first. Finally, as the weather warms up, don’t be tempted to swim in Shadwell Basin – it is dangerous, and sadly people have died in recent years. Don’t risk it.

Stay safe,

Mayor Biggs

Idea Stores reopening

Welcoming you back to our Idea Stores

Our Idea Stores team has been working really hard with officers across the council so we can start to welcome back visitors. We’re pleased to let you know that from next week, we will start to resume some services from our Idea Stores at Chrisp Street (from Tuesday 21 July) and Whitechapel (Friday 24 July). Please note that our opening hours will be reduced.

Keeping everyone safe is a key part of these plans so visitors will need to follow the necessary social distancing and hygiene measures in place. Visitors will also need to book slots to collect or return books and to use the computers – but we are working to allow a small number of drop-in visits too.

The full range of services we love to offer will not be available straightaway. But with massively increased activities and services available online, make sure you join the more than 1,200 new online members we’ve welcomed during lockdown.

Book a slot >

summer events

More than 200 free summer activities for families

This summer, families and young people can take part in more than 200 free online and outdoor activities organised by the council and voluntary organisations, including sports, music, reading, virtual baking and much more.

Many of our summer programmes also include free nutritional meals to help children through a day of active fun.

Find out more >

NHS Test and Trace

Book a Covid-19 test if you have symptoms

NHS Test and Trace continues to operate in the borough to make sure that anyone who develops Covid-19 symptoms can be tested quickly. It also helps trace recent contacts of anyone who tests positive and if necessary, notifies them so that they can stay at home and help stop the spread of the virus.

It's an essential feature of efforts to keep Tower Hamlets safe and drive down the rates of infection and transmission. 

Mobile testing units are operating in the borough and are another way to get tested for coronavirus, alongside ordering a home testing kit. An additional mobile unit will be back near Canary Wharf on 20, 23 and 29 July and on 1 August. 

Book a test >

Child colouring

Tell us about the impact of Covid-19 on your family

University College London wants to learn more about the impact of Covid-19 on families in Tower Hamlets with young children.

If you live in Tower Hamlets and you are pregnant or have a child who is under five years old, they would like to hear from you. Participants will be rewarded with a £10 shopping voucher.

Survey results will support us to shape its future service offering for families and young children, so please make yourself heard.

Take part >

Wear a face covering when shopping

Plan to rebuild: government's strategy for recovery

The Prime Minister set out a roadmap this morning for easing lockdown further in the coming months, in the hope that life will get back to being as close to normal as possible as quickly as possible, while doing so safely. A big part of this will be replacing the national lockdown with local lockdowns if certain areas see an increase in Covid-19 cases. 

We hope that Tower Hamlets will not face a local lockdown, and ask for your help in making sure that we can keep rates of transmission low in our borough. Please continue to follow social distancing, wear a face covering where instructed to do so and make sure you maintain good hand hygiene by washing your hands regularly and thoroughly. 

Find out more >

Shadwell Basin

Enjoying the warm weather responsibly 

The weather is warming up just in time for the weekend and we know that many people will want to get out and enjoy the sun. Our parks are there to be enjoyed but please use them responsibly. Make sure you're following the latest guidelines from government and please put your litter in the bin or take it home with you.

However tempting it may be to cool off in the Shadwell Basin when the temperatures soar, please do not take the risk. It is dangerous and potentially deadly - even strong swimmers have been killed in recent years. 

Please do not use playgrounds

Playgrounds remain closed for now

We are sorry that we cannot reopen our playgrounds yet. We know that children will want to use them but they need to be inspected to ensure that they are safe to use. The inspections are carried out by an independent company which has a backlog of work due to lockdown.

Our inspections are happening soon and we hope to reopen our playgrounds by early August. Please do not unwrap or use our play equipment – we will let you know when they open again. Thank you for your patience.

Stella with Victoria Park rangers

"The rangers are truly amazing"- Stella's experience volunteering in Victoria Park

Over the course of the pandemic, some council staff have been redeployed to other areas to help make sure we can keep our services running and meet any increased demand. 

Stella, who usually works in our children's services team, enjoyed working two days a week in Victoria Park so much that she now volunteers in her own time to give the park rangers a helping hand. 

During her time in the park, Stella helped our rangers to ensure that people were using the park safely and responsibly during lockdown, a vital role in helping to stop the spread of Covid-19. She also assisted police in identifying criminal activity, planted and watered flowers and even rescued a goose that was being attacked by a swan! 

Thanks you to Stella and all of our redeployed staff and volunteers - a fantastic example of people pulling out all the stops over the last few months and showing the true spirit of #TowerHamletsTogether.

Tower Hamlets Together >

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