As you will be aware, the Government announced that the existing rules will be extended by at least three weeks. This was a carefully considered decision and one that I fully support. We must continue to stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives.
While there are indications that social distancing measures have been successful in slowing down the spread of the virus, it is a mixed and inconsistent picture and, in some settings, infections are still likely to be increasing. As such, relaxing any of the measures currently in place would risk damage to both public health and our economy. The worst thing we could do now is ease up too soon and allow the virus to overwhelm the NHS.
The Government has set out 5 specific points on which it will need to be satisfied before it is considered safe to adjust any of the current measures:
- We must protect the NHS’s ability to cope – we must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.
- We need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from Coronavirus so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.
- We need to have reliable data from SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.
- We need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.
- We need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS.
I fully support the Government's decision to only consider adjusting the current measures when the evidence demonstrates that it is safe to do so. Until we are confident on these 5 points, the most important thing we can do is to stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives.
I know many people are concerned about the long term impact of these measures on our economy. During this difficult time for the country, the Government recognises the extreme disruption the necessary actions are having on people’s lives, their businesses, their jobs and the nation’s economy. And that’s why they have produced a huge and unprecedented programme of support both for workers and for business, and will do everything they can to ensure people can pay their bills, stay in their home and put food on their table.
An early relaxation of the measures the Government has put in place would do more damage to the economy over a longer period, as it would undo the progress made to date on slowing the spread of the virus, and, as a result, would require an even longer period of the more restrictive social distancing measures.
We know this will not be a short battle – beating Coronavirus will take months, not weeks. But the Government is keeping all the current restrictions, and any further action that might be required, under constant review and they will be relaxed if and when the evidence shows it is able to.
I appreciate these are incredibly challenging times for individuals as well as businesses, and the prospect of this extension may be daunting, but if we stop now, we risk increasing the spread of Coronavirus. I urge everyone to continue to follow the NHS and the Government’s advice. We will get through this. Cumbria and the rest of the UK will bounce back.
Stay well and stay safe,