Good afternoon and welcome to my regular South West Surrey email update No. 70. As of today, we have a total of 378,219 positive cases of COVID-19 with sadly 41,684 confirmed deaths in the UK. There have been 5,574confirmed cases in Surrey and 554 in Waverley with an estimated 65 current cases. All data is accurate as of 11am this morning.
Test, test, test… On Tuesday I raised with the Health Secretary several cases of local residents being unable to access testing locally – one local councillor was sent for a test on Isle of White, two Farnham residents sent to Bristol and a teacher who tested positive had to wait a week for her results. We must recognise the progress being made - over 200,000 tests a day, rising to 500,000 a day by the end of October - but there is a real crisis at the moment and the big concern is that if we are only testing people with symptoms we will lose track of where the virus is. The issue is how we stop demand for tests soaring yet further ahead of our capacity to supply them - my view is that the only solution is regular, population-wide testing. You can hear me discuss these issues with Nick Robinson on yesterday's Today Programme (0810 slot).
Local lockdowns? The government is expected to announce later today sweeping new measures in the North East to help tackle the rising number of cases in the region. These new measures will affect some two million people in Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead and County Durham. The new measures are not – as has been stressed by national and local government leaders – a second ‘lock down’ but will include a 10 pm shutting of pubs and restaurants, restrictions on public transport usage and banning people from meeting in each other’s homes. Act now to prevent another national lockdown as the PM said yesterday. A press conference is expected later this afternoon around 5pm.
World Patient Safety Day is today. Some of you may know that trying to tackle the large number of avoidable deaths and preventable harm in healthcare has been one of my major priorities for some years. As Health Secretary and Foreign Secretary, I persuaded the World Health Organisation to tackle the issue which they say amounts to 5 preventable deaths every minute across the world or 2.6 m deaths every year. One of the things they agreed to do was have an annual World Patient Safety Day every Sept 17th…which is today, so this morning I launched it virtually with Dr Tedros. Anyone who wants to find out more please sign up to my new weekly patient safety email which will be timed to come out on a different day to the South West Surrey ones. Go on you gluttons for punishment you…
The key number to remember is 0300 200 1008 the Surrey Helpline run by Surrey County Council (Mon-Fri 9 am to 5 pm).
For the most up to date details on social distancing and what you can and cannot do please read these FAQ’s
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
Internal market bill Something of a regular topic in these emails as of late is the ongoing passage of the Internal Market Bill. The legislation is required to keep the UK internal market and the transportation of goods and services flowing as we leave the EU but many people - including me - would be deeply uncomfortable if it led to us breaking international law. The Prime Minister’s decision yesterday to add an amendment which would require parliamentary approval before the government is allowed to break any international treaty or law has been warmly welcomed by MPs but still demonstrates to the EU what we would be likely to do to protect the integrity of the UK in a no deal situation.
Liaison Committee Yesterday the Prime Minister came before the Liaison Committee – a Parliamentary scrutiny committee made up of all the Parliamentary select committee chairs. The Prime Minister had a break from me as I was not selected to ask questions this time but my colleagues pushed the Prime Minister into providing an update on the testing backlog and the issues around test and trace. There is a good write up of the event here and you can watch the whole thing on Parliament TV.
Longer sentencing for violent criminals Yesterday the Justice Secretary published proposals which would see convicted criminals for the most serious crimes receive longer prison sentences. These changes mean that sexual and violent offenders will have to serve at least two thirds of a jail term and whole life tariffs for those aged over 18 convicted for committing acts of terrorism. On top of the 20,000 new police officers over the next few years this represents a major push to improve law and order issues - and as I said on Monday part of this means we are about to get dedicated PCs for Farnham, Godalming and Haslemere which will be warmly welcomed.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN SOUTH WEST SURREY
Bounceback! This week I am launching my ‘South West Surrey Bounceback’ campaign. I want to mobilise our community to do everything we can to support our brilliant local enterprises - both business and charitable. Shop local, eat local and visit local must be our mantra. Over the next few weeks, you will receive a survey from me through your letterbox - please reply to it if you can and encourage other members of your household to do the same. If you have not received it yet you can complete it here. You can read more about what I am doing in this week’s Herald.
See my list of what local voluntary organisation are doing to support vulnerable residents here.
THE ECONOMY AND JOBS
Inflation The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme continues to benefit the economy, this time by driving down the rate of inflation at its fastest rate in 5 years. Last month prices grew at 0.2% down from the 1% experienced in July. Following this data and the recent employment figures – which showed a slight increase in wages but also an increase of unemployment to 4.1%, the Bank of England is not expected to announce today any changes to interest rates.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON
How to stop your glasses steaming up An issue which some bespectacled members of my team are having to tackle every day at the moment – how do you stop your glasses steaming up when wearing a facemask? Turns out all you need is some soap and these simple instructions courtesy of the BBC.
And finally good news yesterday to hear that Sir Kier Starmer’s family member tested negative for COVID-19 and they can now leave isolation. No 10. will be thrilled…