Good afternoon and welcome to my regular South West Surrey email update No. 72. As of today, we have a total of 409,729 positive cases of COVID-19 with sadly 41,862 confirmed deaths in the UK. There are 5,743 confirmed cases in Surrey and 569 confirmed cases in Waverley to date with an estimated 129 cases currently in Waverley. All data is accurate as of 11am this morning.
New restrictions On Tuesday the Prime Minister – in an address to the country and Parliament – outlined the lockdown 2.0 which is thankfully not as draconian as the earlier version. The restrictions include a 10 pm closing time for pubs and restaurants and halving the number of people allowed at weddings. The fines for breaking the rules are set to increase to £200 on the first offence and people are being asked to go back to working from home wherever possible. I said on the BBC’s Newsnight in an interview with Emily Maitlis that I believe that these new restrictions should mean we avoid a full shutdown - but there is so much uncertainty we have to be willing to change tack if necessary. For those who think the government has gone too far, a sobering story from the Health Service Journal which points out hospital COVID deaths have tripled since the start of September. I also talked about the restrictions (and why some flexibility is needed on them) on BBC Radio Surrey yesterday morning (from 3:23 onwards). Constitutionalists will be pleased the PM has agreed that MPs will be able to scrutinise government measures more closely but there appears to be broad public support for the changes.
How long for? The Prime Minister said that these restrictions are likely to last up to six months, so well into 2021. Number 10 said yesterday that they were hopeful that if everyone followed the new restrictions closely then there may be the opportunity to temporarily lift the restrictions for a week during the holiday period. Worth remembering how quickly moods can change in these situations - if we get a vaccine in the next couple of months, if its Britain that discovers it, if we achieve some sort of Brexit deal…then things will be a lot less gloomy. But the eeyores amongst you will notice there are rather a lot of ‘ifs’ in that sentence.
Testing As I have been saying – for what feels like a very long time now – the best way to overcome the virus without a vaccine is through a fully functioning test and trace programme. I am very concerned that locally we still do not have access to enough tests. While I appreciate that we have relatively few cases, they are rising - indeed we appear to have three times more live cases than a month ago. We need to know who has the virus so that close contacts can be isolated quickly - given that about half of all transmission happens from people with no symptoms. Several schools have told me recently that they cannot get the tests they need, a question I asked the Prime Minister on Tuesday.
NHS App Today the NHS Covid-19 App has officially launched. It has been long anticipated and should greatly help with the NHS Test and Trace system. Please download from your app store today – the more people who download it the better it will work.
For the most up to date details on what you can and cannot do please read these FAQ’s
The key number to remember remains 0300 200 1008 the Surrey Helpline run by Surrey County Council (Mon-Fri 9 am to 5 pm).
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
Health Worker Safety Charter As we go into the second wave we need to remember just how much we depend on frontline NHS and care workers. So I am really pleased that after listening to my request the Health Secretary has agreed to sign up to the World Health Organisation Charter on Health Worker Safety. This Charter was established on World Patient Safety Day last week and launched by yours truly and the WHO’s Director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday. You can sign up to my weekly Patient Safety Watch email here.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN SOUTH WEST SURREY
Godalming Mental Health Round Table World Mental Health Day is October 10th, so the day before on Friday October 9th I am hosting a roundtable focusing on local mental health provision with Professor Tim Kendall, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health. He is the top NHS England psychiatrist and a wonderful man who I worked closely with when I was Health Sec. He also runs a remarkable practice giving mental health care to homeless people in Sheffield which I have been lucky enough to visit. The panellists will be from Godalming (the last mental health roundtable was in Farnham and Haslemere next!) but all South West Surrey residents are invited to join us virtually for what will be a fascinating hour. To sign up submit questions please follow this link and read my article in this week Herald.
I have been compiling a list of local groups working to support vulnerable residents. You can view them on this link.
THE ECONOMY AND JOBS
The Farnham LEP which is responsible for boosting investment locally (known as the M3 LEP) told me this morning of the very mixed picture for local businesses. According to Chair Dave Axam and CEO Kathy Slack there are a number of businesses that are steaming ahead, particularly in digital, gaming and design - but the services economy remains dire. They were very supportive of my Bounceback campaign (which you can sign up to here) because shopping locally is going to be key if we want to keep local businesses afloat. But intriguingly they said the new work-at-home economy could be fantastic for local service businesses in the medium to long term because so many more people will be spending their money locally rather than in London. I also asked them if they could help fund the Farnham Town Centre transformation, not wanting to miss the opportunity…and felt the door was ajar if not wide open.
Winter Economic Plan The Chancellor has just outlined a new set of measures to help support jobs and the economy over the winter period. Measures include flexible income wage support, a very generous extension to the Bounce Back Loan scheme and a VAT freeze. I will unpick the measures in detail on Monday, but you can read about them here.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON
Boris on Bake off? Kicking off the Great British Bake Off the other night Matt Lucas gave us - what has to be the best impression of Boris I have ever seen – Boris Johnson, Prue Whitty and Prof Hollywood finally settling the age-old question of how you say “scone”. I’m sure OFCOM will be getting a few complaints about it…
And finally, A fascinating podcast episode – curtesy of the BBC – which explains why Africa has managed to not succumb to the Covid-19 pandemic. A really worthwhile listen.