After a difficult year, I know residents and businesses want to see our city looking and feeling its best.
Keeping our city clean is about providing a warm welcome to visitors while preventing waste washing into our seas and damaging our precious environment.
On top of litter picks and neighbourhood tidy-ups, and the fantastic efforts of local organisations and community groups, the work continues to keep our city tidy and reopen safely.
From tomorrow (Monday 31 May) for a week, a huge cleaning programme is under way as part of Keep Brighton and Hove tidy week.
This builds on the first tidy up week I launched in September 2020 and the two-week deep clean of the city centre in April.
Council teams will once again be working through the night, jet washing some of our busiest streets, removing graffiti and cleaning bins.
With a sunny bank holiday weekend predicted, extra bins will be placed on our seafront on top of the 70 additional bins put there earlier this year, with more bin collections.
Teams have also been out clearing masses of litter from the busy A27 – and we’re working with the train companies to include new announcements reminding people to dispose of their litter responsibly as well as following covid-19 guidance.
Yet while the easing of restrictions means more visitors to our city, scientific evidence shows we must remain alert to the spread of covid – particularly the new B.1.617.2 variant.
Last week I raised my concerns that the new variant will spread quickly and faster than the “Kent” strain that is most common here.
This has now been confirmed in studies published by scientists last week – that the variant is more transmissible and is likely to become the dominant strain in the country.
As I commented last week, the evidence has also shown that a single vaccination is less effective against this strain, so I’d strongly encourage everyone eligible to take up both doses as soon as you can.
Vaccination is a key way we can reduce the impact and severity of covid-19 but there is still the very real impact of long-covid if we do contract the virus.
Ongoing research has found that many people still experience a wide range of health problems months on from having even a “mild” case of covid-19.
So it’s important we continue to work together to practice safe social distancing, wear a mask and wash our hands.
Scenes from around the world are a stark reminder that despite the roll-out of vaccinations, the pandemic is still very much with us.
News that Boris Johnson and his closest aides opted to “ignore” the evidence early on in the pandemic will come as no surprise to some but is criminal in the face of over 128,000 deaths.
While we call for lessons to be learned, sadly it already seems like old mistakes are being repeated.
In the same week as Conservative ministers brazenly dismissed concerns about easing lockdown restrictions on Monday 21 June, they caused panic after quietly imposing new restrictions on places like Bedford – only to reverse them days later.
Locally, our public health teams are watching the data like a hawk. We continue our prevention work, with a focus on expanding local contact tracing efforts, as well as ensuring our community hub can offer support and help with self-isolation.
If you are at all unsure about how to arrange your vaccination or struggling to get a booking close to you, mobile vaccination teams are out and about across the city, bringing vaccination to communities.
There are also options for quiet vaccination sessions. You can find out more online bit.ly/BHvaccination or call 119 free of charge.
To keep our city open and safe, I know we will continue to work together to stop new infections.
As we look ahead to the bank holiday weekend and the end of the school term, there are still steps we can take to protect each other and keep infections low.
Free test kits are still available to students and households across the city. Though it’s the school holidays, regular testing is still important – particularly as many people don’t show any symptoms of the virus, so may be spreading it without knowing.
So as we look forward to warmer weather, it’s still vital we keep up efforts to protect ourselves and stick to the hands, face, space rules and also try to meet outdoors where we can.
I know so many of you have worked so hard and sacrificed much to keep our city on the path to recovery, please let’s continue with our efforts to keep covid cases low.
To request help for yourself or someone else, contact the community hub on 01273 293117.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the Green leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.
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