Richmond Park News: 9 July 2021
Yesterday I led a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing on Test and Trace, questioning officials on how the service is responding to the current situation.
We are at a critical juncture of the pandemic now. Case rates are rising in all age groups, with London cases up 60% over just two weeks ago. We are seeing increasing outbreaks in schools and a small but steady rise in hospitalisations. With the r rate above 1, skyrocketing numbers of working people are getting 'pinged' by the NHS Covid-19 app and told to self-isolate for up to ten days.
The NHS Covid-19 app is – as Dr Jenny Harries pointed out in PAC yesterday – an important public health management tool. However, several business sectors, including retail, hospitality and the NHS clinical workforce, have expressed pressing concerns about the implications it has on their staffing.
The hospitality sector is suffering huge staff shortages already, in part due to Brexit. The prospect of young hospitality workers, many of whom have not yet had the opportunity to get their crucial second jab, having to self-isolate in large numbers, could be the final nail in the coffin for many small businesses. I therefore took the opportunity to ask the senior health officials in attendance at PAC what their plans were to address these concerns.
Dr Harries said in the PAC hearing that they are able to review the app and 'retune' it. I am happy to report that after the meeting health officials confirmed that a review would take place to reduce the sensitivity of the app. I hope this will target self-isolation more effectively.
To see a short clip from the exchange, click here. The entire session can be watched here now and will be available to read here.
DOING OUR PART
I think even non-football fans can't help but be impressed with the England national football team right now. Beyond their success on the pitch, the players and the manager have shown themselves to be persons of keen public spirit. From Marcus Rashford's school meals campaign, to Harry Kane's rainbow armband for Pride month, to Gareth Southgate's commitment to racial justice, they are setting us all, and especially young people, a fine example of personal responsibility and community spirit.
If we want to honour their achievements, we can do so by committing ourselves to looking out for others. Please wear your face mask in enclosed public spaces, out of consideration for the health and comfort of others, if not your own. Please get your vaccinations on time and encourage friends and family members to do the same. Please keep washing your hands, taking lateral flow tests and meeting outdoors whenever you can. Please talk to the teenagers and young adults you know about the importance of protecting themselves and others.
Lastly, Kingston hospital reported to me this week that there is lots of pressure on A&E departments, including Kingston Hospital, right now. If you need non-urgent medical care please contact your GP or call 111 instead of calling an ambulance or going to A&E.
EASING RESTRICTIONS ON SCHOOLS
Parents will have heard from their schools that the Government will be ending the bubble system for schools. This means that larger group activities such as sports days and transition days can resume.