I was happy to learn in the London Strategic Coordinating Group meeting this week that Covid-19 infection rates are levelling off in London and fell slightly last week in both Richmond and Kingston. I would like to thank all of the residents of both boroughs for their efforts to get the transmission rates down again.
As we have learned, though, without taking precautions and carefully monitoring the situation this positive trend could reverse again. Please do not let good news about the vaccine and the r rate make you complacent. We all need to stay locked down for now.
Both of the councils in my constituency will be among the local authorities receiving a supply of the new lateral flow test devices for testing asymptomatic residents - people who may be carrying Covid-19 without displaying symptoms. Each council will soon be receiving 10,000 of these tests to use as they see fit to control local outbreaks. Much of this testing capacity is expected to go to care homes, to protect our vulnerable elderly residents, but other locations, such as schools, may also be tested.
You can see more information about the national rollout of these devices here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/more-rapid-covid-19-tests-to-be-rolled-out-across-england
UPDATE FROM KINGSTON HOSPITAL
Yesterday I joined my colleagues Ed Davey and Munira Wilson to meet with Jo Farrar, Chief Executive of Kingston Hospital, and Mairead McCormick, its Chief Operating Officer. We had a very productive meeting and got a full update on the situation at the hospital.
I was happy to learn that the hospital is coping well with the second wave and expects to have sufficient resources to manage it. Jo and Mairead asked me to please remind constituents that the NHS stands ready to care for non-Covid-19 health needs, too, and to make and keep your hospital appointments as usual. And if you are not sure whether to go to A&E you can call 111 for advice.
Public Health London has asked me to add to this message that there is no shortage of flu vaccine in this area and to get your flu vaccination if you are eligible. This will help keep pressure off of hospital services this winter.
VISITS IN BARNES TODAY
I made some socially-distanced, Covid-secure visits to local organisations in Barnes today to see how they are coping.
First I met Micky Forster at Barnes FiSH, who support about 300 local elderly people living on their own. Some of their activities include befriending, sending out cream teas, providing hospital transport and delivering food. They report that lockdown has led to increased volunteering from younger local people. They are looking forward to getting back to face to face support, and hope they will be able to retain their new volunteers.
I then met Simon Danciger at OSO Arts Centre's pop up coffee bar. Simon explained some of the challenges of lockdown for them and told me how they converted to a community kitchen, providing over 10,000 meals to people referred by local charities and Achieving for Children. They are looking forward to producing their Christmas Panto, Rapunzel. You can book here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/osoarts/oso-panto-rapunzel/e-drjvrp
I was also lucky enough to catch this beautiful view of the river when the sun popped out!
I would like to send my very best wishes to my Hindu, Sikh and Jain constituents celebrating Diwali this weekend. I am very sorry that this year's celebrations will be subdued, with no temple services or extended family gatherings, but I hope your home will be no less bright and your feast no less delicious. If there was ever a time to celebrate the victory of light over darkness this is the moment, so आप सभी को खुशियों और उल्लास से भरी दिवाली की शुभ-कामनाएं !
Royal Parks has been in touch to tell me that the Park was very full last weekend and they will be watching to see if this level of use continues, in case they need to introduce more measures to ensure safety. Visiting outdoor spaces is one of the best things for everyone to do for mental and physical health. We are lucky to have more than enough space in Richmond Park for everyone who wants to enjoy it, as long as we are all considerate users.
I also want to thank the Friends of Richmond Park, who have done great work with their “adopt an area” scheme to pick up litter. Organised litter picks are not happening at present but individuals are still going out and doing what they can, which is wonderful.
JOIN ME FOR A VIRTUAL COFFEE MORNING
My next Zoom coffee morning is scheduled for Wednesday November 25 at 10am. If you would like to join some of your fellow Richmond Park residents and me for an informal chat about local and national issues, please sign up at www.saraholney.com/events
Council Leader Gareth Roberts has written to me about growing reports of people purchasing refreshments from pubs, cafes and restaurants and then consuming them outside of the premises or in local parks and open spaces. He asks people who want to support their local pub to get their pint and take it home, instead of breaking lockdown rules by meeting up with friends in makeshift beer gardens.
He is also warning business owners that they have a responsibility to make sure their trading decisions do not encourage anti-social behaviour.
FRIENDS OF LATCHMERE RECREATION GROUND
The Friends of Latchmere Recreation Ground have been busy. Working in socially distanced groups of six they have had an autumn tidy up, cutting back growth around the base of the trees. Lower branches were removed from some trees to make it easier to walk under them.
Folar are happy to report that their bid to Kingston Neighbourhood Council for some small pieces of wooden play equipment was successful. They are to be placed in the Children's Nature Zone in the wooded end of the Rec. They were supported in this by local Councillors, by the Green Spaces Department in the Council and by idverde. The stepping stone stumps and the logs have been very popular and they are developing a few more pieces, making sure plenty of space is left for people walking through and for children to have the opportunity to play in a wilder wooded space.
They also now have a draft license agreement from the Council for the cafe.
GOOD FOOD COOP
Local residents might like to know about the Good Food Coop. This amazing initiative offers subsidised fresh fruit and vegetables to residents. It will be operating from the Community Library Service in Surbiton Annex. Led by Voices of Hope and Kingston Churches working with community groups and the council, the aim is to make fresh food available to all across the borough. Food boxes will be delivered by the Neighbourhood Rangers on Thursdays for collection that day, starting from 19 November.
BETTER BONES IN KINGSTON
Kingston Council's Better Bones service, which is free for residents, is holding a series of virtual information sessions this month, and a series of classes in the new year, on managing osteoarthritis. They will also teach simple exercises to do at home. Register by contacting 0300 123 8086 or KINCCG.firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website for more.