It is with a degree of sadness that I voted today for a time-limited Winter national lockdown. No MP wants us to be in this position, and I know a new national lockdown will have a direct impact on our communities in Rutland and Melton, and indeed across the UK. Over the last few days I have interrogated our local data: hospital admissions, our local infection rates and ICU capacity. I have spoken to Ministers on a daily basis to understand the situation ahead of us.
It is clear from this data that we need nation-wide measures if we are to get the R rate below 1, which will ensure that the NHS is not overwhelmed and is able to reset as we go into Winter. Most of all, we must ensure that whenever residents of Rutland and Melton need admission to hospital for COVID-19 treatment, specialist beds and care are available.
In Rutland and Melton, cases are rising quickly, and that inevitably means more hospital admissions. The hospitals that serve our communities have experienced a significant increase in people being admitted with severe cases of COVID-19. At the University of Leicester NHS Trust, there were 18 COVID-19 occupied beds on 1 August. This had risen to 102 occupied beds by 27 October. In the same period, numbers at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust rose from 12 to 289, while at Kettering NHS Trust the number of severe cases rose from 5 to 31 and at the North West Anglia NHS Trust (Peterborough is included within this) there was an increase from 13 to 22 occupied beds.
At this current rate, the NHS will be overwhelmed in the East Midlands. That is why the advice from SAGE and the relevant medical authorities is to introduce further measures. It is the reason the Government is proceeding with a national lockdown. No other model has been put forward that would adequately tackle the grave situation we face. In the national interest, and to ensure residents locally are not left without access to specialist care, as well as to protect our NHS, I support the Government’s decision to introduce a time-limited national lockdown.
I sought the views of constituents, and almost 700 of you kindly responded to my poll. 60% of you supported the decision to put a national lockdown in place.
These restrictions will be difficult, but the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have again announced comprehensive measures to support our economy and jobs. Furlough will now continue until December, Bounce Back Loans will be extended and topped up, and again, businesses and Councils will have access to funds in the form of support grants. The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme will also become more generous. This will provide the certainty so many people in Rutland and Melton need, and I am glad the Government moved so swiftly to introduce these measures. If you have any questions on how these programmes work, please do not hesitate to contact me by email.
This lockdown will not be as severe as we all experienced in the Spring. The Government has learned lessons on providing more support for our mental health, whilst doing all it can to prevent the virus spreading. Over the last few days, I have raised a number of concerns from constituents with the Government and am happy to report that in the vast majority of cases, I have secured a policy change. The most notable is that children under school age and children with severe disabilities do not count towards the limit of two people meeting outside. This means that parents can see a friend or family member with their young children or with children who are severely disabled. There is also an exemption that enables Veteran support groups to continue to meet in groups of less than 15 and in a COVID compliant manner.
At this difficult time, I know it may seem as if there is no road ahead. However, there have been positive signals today about progress on a vaccine, and our test and trace capacity continues to grow. Over half a million people are being tested a day, this is far more than the capacity of other European countries. Every day, I am proud to represent people who have worked so hard to keep the virus at bay and to protect our communities, and I would like to thank you in advance for the commitment I know you will demonstrate to the new regulations under which we will all live.
Leadership is the courage to take a different path when circumstances change, even if it means committing to a course of action one had not wished to countenance. The Prime Minister has been transparent about his reluctance to implement a national lockdown. I, too, have wrestled with this difficult decision. I am grateful to all those residents who have written to me and the hundreds who participated in my poll. You have contributed to my view that it is right to introduce a second national lockdown. By pulling together and supporting each other, we can protect our most vulnerable.
As ever, I remain committed to support you if you encounter any difficulties.