We always knew that despite the cautious approach to easing the ‘lockdown’ restrictions, we could not escape the fact that doing so would result in more COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths, but this would happen whenever it was lifted. We knew that if we got the timing right, however, these increases could be significantly limited and I believe the cautious approach set out by the Prime Minister is the right one to achieve this. Ultimately, there is no credible road to a ‘Zero COVID’ Britain, or world, as some advocate, but we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing, and the life chances of our children.
I also think it is worth noting that at a time when many of our neighbours are actually re-imposing tighter restrictions, or find themselves in fresh ‘lockdowns’ with no end in sight, we are continuing to make positive progress to get back to normal here in the UK. That is in no small part because of the success of the vaccination programme, which I have to say I am proud of the Government’s rolling-out of, supported by a remarkable team of professionals and volunteers – as I recently had the great privilege of seeing for myself the week before last at the Moulton Park Vaccination Centre which services the county. We must sustain that progress and I will come back to this point later, but first, I wanted to provide a broader update on the state of play in our area.
After several weeks of having seen our infection rates come down locally, it is frustrating that we have begun to see cases ticking up again once more, particularly in Corby, but it is not completely unexpected, for the reasons I have already set out. What is welcome, however, is that we have seen testing significantly boosted in Corby over recent weeks since the new year, with more workplace testing capacity available, routine testing going on in schools and colleges, and now with two lateral flow testing sites stationed in the town. There is similar provision in place in East Northamptonshire too, including a lateral flow testing centre at Thrapston. This is all very positive and is geared towards identifying chains of infection that we can then shut down. This has been something I have consistently pressed for, and you can find various extensive updates from earlier points at the following link, https://www.votepursglove.co.uk/news, for the purposes of context and setting out my past activity on these matters.
However, given what we have seen over recent days with local infection rates, on Friday, I was involved in a further discussion with our local public health leaders about how even more testing capacity could be added, with a particular focus on the situation in Corby – and as soon as I have further meaningful updates on this, I will be sure to share them here. Of course, getting the infection rates down, and keeping them down, evidently also relies very considerably on everyone playing their part by sticking to the rules, keeping their distance and avoiding non-essential contact. To that end, enforcement has importantly been stepped up over the last couple of months, with greater police patrols in the community and business related education and inspections taking place. But I must again emphasise that we must all play our part in this important effort – we all have a responsibility to do right by each other and the small minority who refuse to do so are simply letting everyone else down. To all those playing their part and contributing: ‘thank you’ – I know it is tough, but it undoubtedly has, and continues to, make a difference.
As we know, as well as keeping infection rates down, successfully continuing to move forward with the ‘road map’ relies upon the sustained success of the vaccination roll-out – a monumental and impressive undertaking so far. My understanding is that production, and by extension supply, is the rate limiting factor in terms of the vaccination programme, but I am advised that Northamptonshire had a significant uplift last week. Indeed, NHS Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group have confirmed to me that:
“The vaccine supply into Northamptonshire is determined by our population and as such is equitable compared to other counties in the midlands region. The amount received into each Primary Care Network (groups of GP surgeries who work together) is further determined by the population that is registered with them. To this end the supply across Northamptonshire is allocated on a fair shares basis.
The various clinics across the county offering vaccination came on-stream in waves. Northamptonshire was one of the first to have clinics covering every person in its county, along with the vaccination centre that opened at Moulton Park 5-weeks ago. Whilst one of the PCNs was in the final wave the population was able to access the vaccine from the start of the programme.
You are correct in advising your constituent that from the start of this week the vaccine supply arriving in Northamptonshire has increased significantly to 54,000 per week. A significant amount of this will be allocated to the PCNs covering the Corby population.”
Indeed, I had been pushing for greater strategic consideration to be given to the vaccination situation in Corby, given our disproportionately higher infection rates over recent months and the fact that evidence suggests vaccination has a positive impact on reducing transmission – something I specifically raised at the meeting that I and my two North Northamptonshire colleagues recently had with the Health Secretary to discuss the situation here in North Northamptonshire. I should also add that a new vaccination centre opened in the town centre in recent days to help support the roll-out and quicken the pace of progress. I have also included, in the file attachment below, a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter jointly received from the Secretary of State and the Vaccines Minister, which details the up-to-date progress of the roll-out nationally, which I hope will be of interest.
All of this extra capacity is, of course, very welcome, but I am far from complacent and will continue to monitor the situation closely and press for additional resources, as required, and as I have to date, to address any challenges that arise as we move forward in the coming days and weeks.