Given the latest lockdown announced by the Prime Minister on Monday night, and following similar posts in recent months, I wanted to update residents once again on the current situation.
Across Bromley, as with much of the country, cases have increased considerably over the last few weeks. At the time of writing, the London Borough of Bromley has a 7-day case rate of 1,041.4 per 100,000. This time last month, the same figure stood at 164.9 per 100,000. Such significant jumps are mirrored across London and the South East and underline in very stark terms the increased transmissibility of the new variant and the need to remain vigilant.
Since the start of the pandemic I have advocated a measured, evidence-based approach to the virus of targeted interventions when demonstrably necessary. I concluded that I could not support previous restrictions because, from the data I had seen, I believed them to be disproportionate and too wide-ranging. Indeed, I have been clear throughout that I will not support restrictions that severely impact people’s lives and livelihoods without compelling evidence of why they are necessary.
Having continued to attend regular briefings with government ministers, their medical and scientific advisers, as well as with the Council and our local health officials at the King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the South East London Clinical Commissioning Group, it is clear to me that we now find ourselves in a very different, much more worrying situation. As Keynes once famously remarked, ‘when my information changes, I alter my conclusions.’ It is on that basis I supported the Government last night. I set out my thoughts further during yesterday’s debate:
Of course, the gravity of the situation does not make these restrictions on our freedoms any more palatable. They should be in place for the shortest duration necessary and must be accompanied by full parliamentary scrutiny and regular review, something I and a large number of my colleagues have been pressing the Government on. I am pleased that the Government has committed to that and confirmed it has a legal obligation to remove restrictions as and when they are no longer needed to combat the virus.
Unlike when we have entered previous lockdowns, the rollout of the vaccine does mean we now have a clear exit strategy we can work towards. Good progress is being made in administering both the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, with nearly 1.5 million people having now received their first dose across the UK (putting us well in advance of most other countries). This process will, however, take time. Please be patient and do not contact your GP unless you absolutely have to. This is an enormous logistical exercise; an agreed system is being worked through and you will be contacted when your time comes.
In addition to hospitals and many of our GP surgeries, a number of vaccine centres are already operating across the Borough and more will be opening over the coming days, including at Community House in Bromley. Testing is also being increased with rapid testing now available for residents without symptoms at the Civic Centre and a further rapid unit opening in Penge next week. Details of both can be found on the Council’s website.
I know how difficult the next few weeks will be. While I welcome the £4.6 billion in additional support announced by the Chancellor on Tuesday, as well as the further discretionary grants outlined here, I will continue to do everything I can to make the case for business and those who have unfairly found themselves ineligible for support.
If you own a business, you can find out exactly what you’re eligible for through this link:
I have already set out to ministers why I believe teachers and teaching staff should be considered a priority for vaccination, helping our schools get back to something more akin to normality as soon as possible, and I will continue to do what I can to ensure the equipment is in place, including laptops and tablets, to enable good quality remote teaching to take place. I am receiving a considerable number of enquiries every day, but my team are dealing with these as quickly as possible and I am trying to make sure any problems raised with me are properly addressed, feeding in concerns to my colleagues in government. If you have an issue, please get in touch via email rather than social media, as this is easier for us to track.
When I spoke to the Chief Executive of our local NHS Trust this morning, 16 people were in intensive care in the PRUH with COVID-19 and 257 in general COVID wards. Our local hospitals are under immense pressure. To help them, and to protect your family and friends, the need for everyone to follow the rules cannot be overstated. Doing so is the best way to show your gratitude to those on the frontline who are fighting this virus in the most difficult of circumstances. They cannot be thanked enough.