“Rapid increase” in Covid
Coronavirus cases in England have “increased rapidly” and the government’s scientific advisers are now warning that hospital admissions are “very close” to the level they were in early March.
Estimates suggest between one-in-170 and one-in-240 people you meet in the street has the virus. The number of cases and the speed at which they are increasing is highest in the north of England, but London is reckoned to be only about two weeks behind.
England’s Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty, presented MPs with evidence which appeared to show the number one environment for the virus being passed on was pubs, restaurants and the hospitality sector. At the same time the date has been criticised for not being sufficiently rigorous. The Test and Trace app launched two weeks ago, had by Friday 9 October only sent out one notification about a coronavirus outbreak in a venue.
Sky News technology correspondent Rowland Manthorpe wrote:
‘Department of Health officials said that the system was still in its infancy and was not expected to be used frequently. But with mass closures of pubs and bars expected in parts of the country, the absence of targeted venue alerts has raised questions about the government’s strategy’.
This despite more than 480,000 businesses having downloaded QR code posters within three days of the launch of the app on 24 September
Shadow digital minister Chi Onwurah said:
“There is a plain contradiction there and ministers need to get a grip.”
Sadiq Khan calls for pub curfew review
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called for an urgent review of the 10.00pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, saying it actually appeared to be causing an increase in Covid infections. In central London the scenes of people turning out of pubs all together at the same time have caused people to question the effectiveness of the policy.
Speaking to the London Assembly on Wednesday 7 October he said:
“My view is that the 10pm curfew not only doesn’t appear to be reducing the increase in this virus, but could be counter-productive. I have been lobbying the Government to try to review this 10pm curfew.”
He told the Evening Standard on Thursday 8 October:
“It is vital that the Government carry out a review of the 10pm curfew rules as a matter of urgency. It is now clear that the scientific evidence for bringing in the policy was limited, and we continue to see the unintended consequence of increased social mixing in other settings after 10.00pm.
“At the same time many of our pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues are on the brink of collapse as their revenues are reduced even further, without financial support from Government”.
Richmond now has one of the highest levels in London
Cases have more than doubled in a week in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames, with112.1 new cases per 100,000 people in the week to 5 October. In Richmond 222 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 during the seven days up to 5 October. In the previous week there were 89 people who tested positive.
The capital is now seeing higher increases in the wealthier boroughs than it did before. While Richmond has shot to the top of the table, Hounslow remains in seventh place, with 85.8 cases per 100,000. Ealing is at fourth place with 96.5.
Sadiq Khan told the London Assembly that though there were differences between the levels in different boroughs, when it comes to measure to control the virus, he prefers for the capital to be treated the same across all boroughs.
“We are keen to go as one London,” the Mayor told the assembly. “The Government is keen for us to go as one London.
“The idea of having a restriction in one borough but not in another borough, when people often travel from home to work, or may go to a restaurant in another borough, or to visit family – you can imagine the complications if that were to happen.”
‘Tiered approach’ for different parts of the country
Writing for the BBC, Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said the government is likely to introduce a tiered approach to put different parts of the country with different spreads of the diseases into different categories.
‘However you look at the blizzard of statistics about the Coronavirus, the disease is still spreading – despite town after town being placed under extra limits.
‘It’s a complicated equation. The Department of Health is worried about the spread of the disease, as well as other patients losing out on other treatments because of the focus on Covid. No 11 is fearful about the impact on the economy, which has already had a profound shock. And it’s No 10’s job to worry about all of it, then reach a conclusion’.
Leaked documents suggest the government is considering a range of options, but that the prime minister will announce some form of tougher measures, the details of which will vary from region to region.
The Independent reported that the document detailed three alert levels, from the minimum level of restrictions applicable to all of England to the most stringent measures reserved for the highest level, if cases cannot be contained.
Alert Level 1
‘Alert Level 1 includes restrictions currently in place, such as the rule of six and a maximum of 15 guests at weddings and civil partnership ceremonies, but 30 for funeral services’.
Alert Level 2
‘Alert Level 2 would be triggered in specific geographical areas or nationally where a rise in transmission cannot be contained through local measures. People would not be allowed to meet anyone outside their household in private dwellings, including gardens. Visiting indoors in hospitality, leisure or retail environments would be restricted to one household, unless they are in a support bubble’.
Alert Level 3
‘Alert Level 3, can be triggered in geographical areas or nationally when measures from the previous alert level have failed to contain the spread of the virus, or where there has been a significant rise in transmission. Measures in this level are the harshest, and include no social contact outside your own household in any setting and restrictions on overnight stays away from home’.
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