As we head into winter, we have reached what the Deputy Chief Medical Officer has called a ‘tipping point’ in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. Cases are now starting to rise steeply locally and appear to be doubling every week. So it is vital that we all continue to do our part, follow the rules and keep to the three basic principles: wash hands, cover face and make space.
The Government is working extremely hard to ensure that a second national lockdown is not needed. As the Gazette goes to press, the Prime Minister is preparing to give a statement to the House of Commons on the next steps needed to control the spread of the virus, including a new system of Local Covid Alert Levels in England. The whole country will be placed into medium, high and very high levels (Tiers 1, 2 and 3 respectively), and the Government is working with local leaders to decide which areas are covered by the very high alert level so appropriate interventions can be made.
This is a fast-moving situation and by the time you read this it is likely new announcements will have been made so I would encourage everyone to check both gov.uk and the website for Essex County Council for the latest details.
Most of those who contacted me in the early days of the pandemic worried about their jobs and pay are now back at work, with the majority having received support through the Government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme or the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough). I am aware the wedding industry, the arts and some small businesses offering very specific services, are still struggling and I am bringing all these concerns to the attention of Ministers on a regular basis.
The Chancellor has announced an expansion to the Job Support Scheme that will provide temporary localised support to protect jobs and provide a safety net for business in areas where tougher restrictions are in place – this is great news.
On a similar note of positive news, last week I visited Hartswood Hospital in Brentwood to hear how this private hospital worked in lock-step with the NHS during the first wave – supporting them in a whole range of areas when help was needed – and how they are now preparing to do the same should it be necessary. Excellent to see such professional collaboration happening in our area.