Posted: 16.10.20 at 12:00 by Munira Wilson MP
As you will have heard, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced yesterday that the whole of London will move into the “high alert” or Tier 2 category of coronavirus restrictions as of 00:01 tonight, ie. Saturday 17 October.
Along with other London MPs, I was offered a short briefing call with the Care Minister and officials ahead of the announcement in Parliament yesterday morning. The data we were shown on infection rates and growing hospitalisation rates across the city were stark.
It is not clear how long these restrictions will be in place (I asked the Health Secretary this question yesterday – see below). London’s Tier 2 status will be reviewed every 14 days.
Below is a summary of the new rules and also an update on my work this week as Health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats. I have been urging the Government to sort out the test, trace and isolate system, which is clearly far from functioning as it should, yet it is key to suppressing the virus so that we are not constantly stuck in a repetitive cycle of new restrictions or lockdowns.
London to move to Tier 2 restrictions
London will move to Tier 2 (high alert) restrictions from Saturday.
The new restrictions include:
No household mixing indoors, in domestic and public settings (excluding support bubbles)
The rule of six to continue outdoors
Pubs and restaurants to continue with a 10pm curfew
Schools, universities and places of worship to remain open
People should minimise journeys where possible
People should work from home when possible
Questioning government about the evidence and length of restrictions
Many will be worried what these restrictions will mean for them and how long they will continue to be in force. I asked Matt Hancock yesterday if he could provide the evidence behind the measures he's implementing, and how long the restrictions might last.
Watch the exchange HERE
Urging government to sort out the test, trace and isolate system
According to SAGE, the test, trace and isolate system is only having a marginal impact on COVID transmission, yet it’s absolutely critical to keeping the virus under control.
I am clear that we should not as a country be in the position we are now with the virus growing out of control across vast swathes of the country. After the immense sacrifices made by the British people during the first lockdown which enabled us to get transmission rates under control, a robust and effective locally-led system of testing, tracing and isolating the virus should have been fully functional and scaled up over the summer months. However, those sacrifices and that time has been squandered.
I have been calling on the government to overhaul the system so that local authorities are leading the contact tracing. Their contact rate this week was 97.7%, whereas the national system only reached 62.6% of contacts. You can read a short speech I delivered in Parliament on local contact tracing yesterday here. In this speech, I also called out the excessive use of very expensive management consultants with limited relevant experience.
Richmond’s infection numbers
On Monday when the Prime Minister made his statement to Parliament about the new tier system, I challenged him about the latest technical glitch in the testing system which has seen many positive cases of students being attributed to their home address, instead of their university address. This has affected about a quarter of new cases in Richmond-upon-Thames.
Lives and jobs are at risk. The Government must urgently get a grip on Test & Trace or the new measures we are being subjected to will not work.