Richmond Park News: 12 February 2021
I would like to wish my Chinese constituents a very happy Chinese New Year today. I am sorry there is no parade in London this year, but the London Chinatown Chinese Association is organising a virtual celebration that families can enjoy from home via its YouTube channel on Sunday.
A number of my constituents have written to me about the closure of Sun Inn Flowers in Barnes. I was so sorry that they’ve had to close during the pandemic but am delighted that they’re able to offer an online click and collect service. Don't forget to place your order for Valentine's Day!
The message this week from health authorities is quite a positive one: case rates in both Richmond and Kingston boroughs have dropped below 200/100,000, and are continuing to decline. We will need several more weeks of improvement before we can say the second wave is over, but things are going in the right direction. Thank you for everything you have done to reduce transmission rates here.
With schools on half term break next week, I want to remind everyone that we are still in lockdown. Families are not allowed to travel around the country or mix with other households, unless you are in an established childcare or support bubble with them.
The vaccination program continues to go well. The NHS has vaccinated about 1.5 million people in London so far, and believes that everyone in the top four priority groups has now been invited for their vaccine. If you have not yet been invited for a vaccination, and you are over 70, or on the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable list, or you work in the health or care sector, please contact the NHS to book an appointment. You can also book a vaccination by calling 119 free of charge. If you are not registered with a GP, you can do so on the same page. I am especially asking those who work in the care sector to get vaccinated as soon as possible, to help protect those who are vulnerable.
If you have had a vaccination, please remember that the vaccine takes time to take effect, and that we do not yet know whether you can transmit the virus even when you are yourself protected by the vaccine. So it is vital that all those who have been vaccinated continue to follow the rules on staying home, social distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene until they are lifted for everyone.
PAC HEARING ON PPE PROCUREMENT
The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, released a report this week on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) procurement. The report revealed that the Department for Health and Social Care’s decision to prioritise hospitals at the beginning of the pandemic meant social care providers were left exposed by lack of PPE. The report, which you can read in full here, highlights the appalling situation of staff having to care for people with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 without sufficient PPE to protect themselves or others from infection.
At a time of monumental national emergency, there were some absolutely shocking practices taking place. Some of the reports we heard in the Public Accounts Committee, of front-line staff badly let down by an ill-prepared government, were utterly harrowing. This process was mishandled on many levels and it's important that lessons are learned from what happened. The Public Accounts Committee will certainly return to this issue.
In this week’s PAC session, I questioned the head of the NAO, the Comptroller and Auditor General, about the difficulties associated with carrying out effective audits during a pandemic. He revealed that they hadn’t been able to carry out an effective audit of the PPE inventory because they didn’t know where it all was! See my video below for more details. The PAC will continue to hold the government to account for wasteful spending on PPE.