As Covid-19 grows, we must protect each other, and prevent local lockdown

This piece by Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty originally appeared in Brighton Argus

This week, our city’s Covid-19 alert level was raised to ‘amber.’ This tells us there’s a rise in cases in Brighton and Hove. Our rising number of infections now puts us only a step away from Government restrictions, so we all need to make extra efforts now to prevent the spread of the virus and avert local lockdown.

I know many of you are tired of this awful pandemic, I know many of you have already made enormous sacrifices, others tragically have lost loved ones but I am now appealing to everyone to play their part for our city to fight the pandemic. Step up our vigilance and follow the rules that will help us avoid restrictions:

  1. HANDS – Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds, especially when you’ve been outside
  2. FACE – Wear a face mask over your nose and mouth, especially indoors where social distancing is difficult, and where you come into contact with people
  3. SPACE – keep your distance from people you do not live with, and take extra precautions- indoors that means wear a mask and increase ventilation
  4. Rule of six: When seeing friends and family you do not live with you must meet in groups of 6 or less. Indoors or outdoors do not meet in a group of more than six.

Thankfully hospital admissions in the city are still low. But it’s now when we must all work together to keep the level low and stop the spread of Covid-19 to our most vulnerable neighbours. The city council continues to work hard around the clock to protect the communities we serve. This week I met with the University of Sussex and council teams are meeting regularly with the universities, to plan for how we can prevent the spread of the virus. Key stakeholders from across the city, including our universities, NHS, care homes and councillors will also drive forward our ‘local outbreak engagement plan’- the plan to manage infection control. Our council committees keep a close eye on what more needs to be done. I am daily monitoring the pandemic and routinely meeting with our Director of Public Health and his team. This is to ensure we are putting in place the measures to help our city most effectively manage this crisis. I am determined to do everything it takes to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in our city.

Yet one thing remains clear: the efforts of local communities, local councils and our NHS are being repeatedly undermined by the continued mismanagement of the pandemic by central government. The news that cases are rising locally comes when the Conservative Government’s poor handling of the crisis has now led to nearly 16,000 cases of Covid-19 going unrecorded and untraced. This colossal incompetence has now created unacceptable gaps in knowledge: limiting our understanding of where, and how quickly the virus is spreading. It transpires it was the use of outdated, old computer technology that caused the latest error: a clear sign that the whopping £10bn the Government has thrown at test and trace is not going where it is most needed.

While profit-making companies like Serco, Sitel and Deloitte reap over £500m for test and trace, with little to show for it, the total that local public health teams the length and breadth of the country have received is £300m between them. We cannot afford the continuation of these catastrophic national blunders. Not one penny more should be given to the failing contracts in the private sector, this scandalously wasted resource must be handed over to public health teams.

Along with a growing number of other council leaders up and down the country, I have this week continued to press the Conservative Government to provide local communities with the support they need to beat Covid-19. If funded and resourced well, local public health teams, with their intimate knowledge of communities are the strongest response we as a city have – in the absence of a vaccine. Local teams have the knowledge to reach people let down by national test and trace – and can signpost people to other support, such as food banks and support with their bills.

We cannot be complacent about Covid and we must be clear: our increasing number of cases is a cause for serious concern. But if there is one place I know will rise to the challenge it’s the city we all love. Brighton and Hove’s communities have already shown steely commitment, will once again pull together. We will work to prevent this deadly disease reaching the most vulnerable in our society. I know this has been incredibly tough- 7 months on from the start, it’s arguably tougher. But let’s pull together and stick together.

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