James Wild: Lockdown and protecting the NHS
The latest column by North West Norfolk MP James Wild, Friday, November 6, 2020
Last weekend, the Prime Minister announced a plan to introduce new national restrictions following advice that increasing transmission rates across the country meant there is a serious risk that the NHS will be overwhelmed within weeks.
I wanted to avoid such national measures. That’s why I supported the Local Covid Alert system.
While it protected the NHS and saved lives, I know how painful and costly the first lockdown was for people’s wellbeing and our economy.
So following the Prime Minister’s statement, I spoke with the Health Secretary, Public Health England, and the No10 advisers.
I had detailed briefings from Norfolk’s Public Health Director, Norfolk and Waveney CCG, and the QEH to interrogate the data and projections for Norfolk.
I also reflected carefully on constituents’ views – both in favour and opposed to these changes.
In Norfolk, as I write, there are 100 cases per 100,000 people and it has doubled in two weeks. In North West Norfolk, our rate is 88 per 100,000 with nearly 200 people testing positive in the last week. During September, rates here were around 10 per 100,000.
The rate is expected to hit 150 cases per 100,000 later this month. Hospital admissions are also increasing across the East of England and, locally, QEH has bed occupancy of over 97%.
The unambiguous message from health experts and the data is that Norfolk is on a similar trajectory to the rest of the country.
If we do not act we could see the NHS locally unable to provide care of all kinds due to Covid-19 and winter pressures. Given that serious position, I support the restrictions reluctantly and on the basis that they end on 2 December.
I am very conscious of the incredible sacrifices people and businesses have made to control this virus.
During my discussions I also sought assurances of financial support for individuals, the self-employed, and businesses; and a human approach to care home visits.
Under the restrictions, schools remain open, you can shop for food and essentials, take exercise outdoors, go to workplaces if you cannot work from home, attend medical appointments, and care for vulnerable people.
Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will be closed. Pubs, bars, restaurants must close, except for takeaway and delivery services. People cannot travel within the UK, or internationally, for a holiday.
It is very disappointing to be in this position just as businesses were getting back on their feet. I understand the frustration that restrictions on our freedoms and social contact, stopping activities, and the impact on companies in supply chains cause.
Let’s focus on getting through this period together and on reducing the infection rate. Norfolk enters these controls from a lower tier – by following these rules we can all play our part so that after this phase we return to it. I along with the other MPs will make that case.
One of the positive things from Covid-19 has been the “Everyone In” campaign that helped people off the streets into safe accommodation. With winter coming, I was pleased to join the Night Shelter’s blessing of its new home which will provide immediate support.
Combined with £700,000 new Government funding for longer-term accommodation, this is part of a collective effort to ensure no one has to sleep on our streets.