Quite a bit to report. Everything I say is based on the best information I can get, but is not “official” – see the Waverley and Surrey sites below for the latest official news.
* Residents in the highly vulnerable group are being phoned individually by a team on the council to find out if they need help.
A team of 11 have spoken to 1200 people on the initial list, but a new list arrived a couple of days ago with 700 more, so there’s still some way to go. There’s also a problem that some people don’t answer calls from unknown numbers – the council is trying to find ways of contacting them (e.g. through a neighbour) but it can be difficult Sainsbury in Beeston and Tesco in Haslemere are both making progress in getting the vulnerable on their delivery list,
* There remains a significant issue with people who are somewhat less vulnerable but still over 70 or with a somewhat less serious underlying condition – they shouldn’t be taking risks, but aren’t on the “very vulnerable” list. Age Concern is operating an effective volunteer network for the elderly, and the Waverley and Surrey websites have contact numbers for others to ask for help. The challenge is to make sure people know about that.
WW: We didn’t think Age Concern existed any more in Waverley? – Age UK Waverley was scrapped by the Tories years ago – claimed it wasn’t needed in the borough any more!
Please keep reminding friends and family of these key reference sites:
* The local hospitals are not currently overwhelmed, and as the new infection rate seems to be dipping it looks as though they may get through it without having more than they can cope with (as some London hospitals have been close to doing).
* I’ve had no confirmed reports of a local care home outbreak. I saw one claim of it but the person reporting it on Facebook didn’t give any details despite my asking for them, and we should be sceptical about vague reports in the current climate.
* Generally social isolation seems to be pretty well observed locally, though there have been a few complaints about bonfires, which are unhelpful for people nearby with asthma.
* Biffa is still managing to maintain its services (except street sweeping), with a sickness rare of 15% as before – not all Covid.
To avoid bunching bin collectors together with higher infection risk, times for the routes are being staggered across the day. You can do your part by being patient – frankly we’ll all survive if our bins are collected a few hours later or even next day. If you see the bin collectors, please shout your thanks – they’re doing a brilliant job. Likewise supermarket staff, postal workers, utility engineers and all the other who are keeping society’s wheels turning.
- Please give some credit to council officials, who are knocking themselves out 7 days a week to stay on top of this, coordinating help to the most vulnerable and ensuring that key services are maintained. If you can avoid making routine enquiries (e.g. about a planning application) during this period that would be great.
See SW Surrey Labour’s site for the non-partisan interview with a local member in the pharmaceutical industry for the outlook for vaccines, treatments and antibodies tests:
https://www.facebook.com/swsurreylabour/ (scroll down for the Adrian LaPorta interview).
Nationally, there are four key issues:
- Shortage of protective clothing and equipment for NHS and care staff
- Shortage of testing – our rate per head is 1 person in 230 tested, and has now been overtaken even by the US. This seems to be partly an organisational issue – there are repeated reports of testing facilities that are barely used, but also over-stringent Government rules, which mean that underused facilities are turning NHS staff seeking tests away unless they are actually showing symptoms (you can be infected and pass it on without symptoms, so this is a mistaken policy).
- The waste, so far, of the 750,000 volunteers who were urged to sign up to help the NHS. Virtually none of them appear to have been used because the initiative was announced with fanfare without engaging local authorities to process the offers.
- The apparent absence of any medium-term strategy. We gather that there will be some sort of relaxation in the some weeks or months, but there is nothing clearer than that. Both ordinary people and businesses are up for working seriously to make a plan work – but we need to know what the plan is?
I am not keen to score political points, but frankly the Government needs to up its game – Britain reacted more hesitantly than most countries, as a result of which the peak has come later, seemingly with many unnecessary deaths, and there are still people on the front line with completely inadequate protection. Giving carers a badge and clapping them are both nice but really not the immediate need.
Tactically, though, I think the national situation is getting slightly easier now, and the danger of NHS hospitals being overwhelmed may have passed – the critical issue there is testing and equipment of staff. It will be a long haul back to normality even if policy improves.
Do keep taking care – it would be silly to catch it now if it’s just passed the peak!
Leader, Labour group on Waverley Council