Understandably, I have received many enquiries over the last week regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Government’s approach to tackling this significant challenge. This is a worrying and uncertain time for all of us, but especially those with elderly or vulnerable loved ones. It’s vital that we remain guided by the expert medical advice, which is based on the best available evidence, and support one another – as neighbours, a community, and as a society – through what will be a very difficult few months ahead.
This is a rapidly evolving situation, both in terms of what we know about the virus and in our response to it. I would urge everyone to regularly monitor the guidance that is being posted on both the Government and NHS websites:
The UK’s strategy is to supress the peak of the virus, ensuring that it remains below NHS capacity, and shield the most vulnerable. That is why, as the Prime Minister, the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and the Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, made clear this afternoon, more disruptive changes will now need to be introduced, increasingly affecting how we go about our daily lives. That includes avoiding all non-essential contact, working from home where possible, and self-isolating for 14 days if you or anyone in your household have the common symptoms – namely, a dry cough or fever.
A great deal has been made of the variances in approach between different countries, but it’s important to stress that this is because different places find themselves at different stages in this process. It’s therefore important that we implement certain measures at the optimal time, ensuring they are as effective as they can be. School closures and stricter travel restrictions may well be needed in the very near future, but for now, given where we are, it is believed such measures would be premature. Going forward, the Government will be holding daily press conferences to update the nation, making sure its rationale is as transparent as it can be.
We are now on the cusp of the fast growth stage we have seen elsewhere. Over 44,000 tests have already been conducted in the UK and this will be scaled up over the coming weeks. For the very large majority of people who catch the virus, the symptoms will only be either mild or moderate and can be dealt with at home. Unless your health begins to deteriorate, please do not call 111 or 999, helping to keep lines free for those most in need. Please also avoid buying food and essentials in bulk and stockpiling certain products such as soap and medicine. As many of the supermarkets have made clear this weekend, there are ample supplies for everyone as long as people are sensible and shop as normal.
I have received a raft of other queries from residents, and understand the concerns that have been raised, but can only point people to the medical advice I have outlined above. I am not a medical professional and am in no position to contradict it. Indeed, it would be utterly irresponsible for me to do so. Ultimately, we must trust in professionals, not hearsay.
If you are able and willing to help those around you, there are a number of great schemes, like the British Red Cross Community Reserves, that are coordinating additional support in the community:
Another press conference will be taking place tomorrow. The Chancellor will also be setting out further support for businesses during the course of the day.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone at the frontline in fighting this disease, but particularly those in our local hospitals and GP surgeries, as well as the 111 and 999 call handlers. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.