This afternoon our area joined three quarters of the country in entering Tier 4 measures as part of the fight against Coronavirus. As of today, our district of South Kesteven had a rate of 305.4 per 100,000 representing a significant increase in infection rate since the 17th December 2020. This is also the case in several of our surrounding areas such as Peterborough (366.9 – Tier 4), Rutland (182 – now Tier 3 up from Tier 2), and North Kesteven (254 – Tier 4).
The new virus strain is behind a significant increase in cases across the country, this afternoon I had a call with Edward Argar MP, Minister of State at the Department for Health, and Jonathan Van Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, to discuss the situation. I have also been in touch with local NHS leaders just as I have since the start of the outbreak.
The situation is bleak, and this latest action has been taken to mitigate the impact on capacity at our hospitals which are continuing to see high COVID admissions and medical staff absences.
As I have pointed out in previous statements, through this link (COVID Heat Map) you can see the number of people (by age demographics) in South Kesteven with at least one positive COVID-19 test result per 100,000 population in the rolling 7-day period ending on the dates shown, by age. The darker the colour, the higher the rate. It shows that as the year has gone on, and especially into October, November and December there has been a higher propensity of rates. While there have been improvements in late November and into December, clearly, we are in a very difficult position locally during this winter period. Winter is always the most difficult time for any healthcare service.
However, this morning we received the excellent news that the government has accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use. This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
The NHS has a clear vaccine delivery plan and decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programmes. It has already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of patients with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and its roll out will continue. Now the NHS will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to roll out the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine. With 2 vaccines now approved, we will be able to vaccinate a greater number of people who are at highest risk, protecting them from the disease and reducing mortality and hospitalisation.
Clearly, the approval of the second COVID vaccine for our country is a critical step forward. You can read more about the roll out of the vaccine here.
We now have to stay focused on tackling this virus by following the guidance and by acting responsibly to ensure that our hospitals do not get overwhelmed before the vaccine can come to the rescue. We all have a part to play in overcoming this terrible virus. I know this is tough, everyone has been impacted, but we must keep going.
More information on what Tier 4 means for us here in our area can be found here.