The next review of the current lockdown restrictions is due this week and, here in Brentwood and Ongar, the number of coronavirus infections is falling. In less than two months we have gone from having one of the highest rates of infection in England to one of the lowest in Essex.
Some constituents people have been in touch with me to deny how bad things were, citing false-positives in the testing system. I’ve rebutted this strongly, pointing to the full hospitals, the exhausted NHS staff and the major incident declared by the Essex Resilience Forum. Things are easing slightly now, but I’m not going to let misinformed correspondents claim the pandemic is no worse than seasonal flu.
Even now, Essex County Council has reported this week that around a third of people with Covid-19 have no symptoms and could be spreading the virus unknowingly. Health officials in the county advise figures could go down even quicker if together we break the chain of transmission by getting tested regularly.
To this end, we are now being offered walk-in appointments for a rapid test at our local test centre, the nearest to most of us being the Nightingale Centre just off Pastoral Way in Warley. The centre is open every day from 7am to 5.50pm, so if you need to be tested, be it for work, curiosity or your own peace of mind, it is easy to got through the process and get the result back within an hour.
I am extremely proud that, in the UK, we have the largest testing capacity in Europe, and the announcement of two new megalabs, set to open in early 2021 and expanding our daily testing capacity by a further 600,000, is another key milestone. I believe that these are important steps in enabling people to return to normal life.