It is with a hugely heavy heart I will be voting for national lockdown measures today, and I wanted to explain why.
I have based my decision on local needs by discussing our situation with East Surrey Hospital and our local NHS Trust and looking at the most reliable data which, in my view, is hospital admissions.
In East Surrey Hospital we currently have 40 patients with Covid 19. It’s clear these cases are rising quickly. Because of the time lag between infections and hospital admissions we can expect this to continue to rise; even if we prevented all new infections now admissions would still rise for the next 2-3 weeks. At our peak in April we had 7 wards (roughly 25 people a ward) taken over for Covid treatment and whilst not ‘overwhelmed’ we were transferring patients elsewhere in the SE. Overall SE hospital admissions are in a similar place & trajectory to the first lockdown in March. However, in East Surrey we only had 7 wards of capacity for Covid patients then because 5 wards in East Surrey were empty due to elective surgeries – including critical cancer detection surgeries like endoscopies - being stopped to deal with Covid. This time we are not postponing electives, and we are facing the usual additional winter demand. We will not have that same ‘spare’ capacity again. If we were alone in seeing rising hospital admissions we would be able to cope by transferring patients elsewhere, but unfortunately with all parts of the country seeing a rise in infections, it’s not possible. To do nothing, would put elective surgery and our overall health provision at risk so we do need to stem the rising rate of infections.
However, at my core I am deeply against fighting the virus this way long term. Therefore I have sought and received assurances on the following important points. Firstly, on December 2nd, our exit from lockdown in East Surrey will be judged on our LOCAL rate of infection not on a national ‘R’ rate. Secondly, we must ramp up provision of mass testing and rapid testing starting with hospital and care workers to protect workers and residents. Thirdly, we must use this time to work out a roadmap of how we live with the virus going forward. Great strides have been made in treatment, towards a vaccine and mass rapid testing, but we need to continue to make fast progress towards a sustainable future.
I believe we were right to fight for a regional approach as was the path taken by all other major European countries - Germany, Italy, Spain, France - however like those countries we now find ourselves in need of national measures.
To businesses, restrictions of course have terrible economic consequences, which I see daily from my work with Treasury. However if the national NHS provision becomes overwhelmed or if local infection rates keep on their current trajectory in the near team we would end up with restrictions for longer to get the virus under control. We have announced further economic measures such as an extension of furlough, grants of up to £3000 a month for those required to close, an extension to self employed support of up to 80% of wages, and continuation of the suspension of Minimum Income Floor for self-employed people on Universal Credit and additional discretionary grant which will go to the Council to distribute based on local need and the furlough January bonus of £1000 for workers previously furloughed will kick in in January. I realise this will be a very difficult time and will continue to advocate for a health response which means we are not here again.
I have also touched based with some of our amazing voluntary organisations who did so much to see us through last time. We will need you again - I thank you on behalf of all the residents who wrote in to me about your work for all that you have done so far.
If we follow the guidance and get local infection rates on a downward trajectory, we can ensure a full as possible exit in East Surrey on Dec 2nd. I’d ask residents to please follow your doctor’s advice and continue with any elective surgery plan you have as they have been working tirelessly to make sure this is possible.
I have been raising your questions about different restrictions and will continue to do so. If you need to contact me you can email me at email@example.com or call on 0207 219 5972.
- Non-essential shops, leisure, entertainment venues, pubs, bars, and restaurants will be closed (except for takeaway and delivery services).
- People should work from home wherever possible and only leave home for a limited set of reasons including education, work (if you cannot work from home), for exercise outdoors, for medical reasons, to escape injury or harm, to provide care for vulnerable people, or as a volunteer.
- Childcare, early years settings, schools, colleges, and universities will all remain open on the advice of Public Health England.
- Shielding as practised in the spring will not currently be reintroduced. However, the clinically vulnerable should be careful to minimise contacts with others.
- People cannot travel internationally or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions. Overnight stays away from primary residences will not be allowed, except for specific exceptions.
The full guidance on the new measures, as well as economic support packages, can be found here.