The Prime Minister’s announcement today is really grim news.
Over the past few days, including on Thursday this week, I have been in meetings with the Health Minister, Public Health England, where it was explained to me why Harlow was put in Tier 3. It was also confirmed that a few days ‘amnesty’ over Christmas could take place.
Following the Press Conference this Saturday afternoon by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA), the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and the Prime Minister, this decision has been changed and Harlow will be now in a new Tier 4, taking effect from tomorrow morning. This will be reviewed regularly, with the next formal review on 30 December.
The Prime Minister has said that information received in the last 24 hours, and a briefing that he received yesterday from the GCSA and CMO, indicates the severity of a new variant strain of the virus. Early analysis of the new variant suggests that it could increase the number of people infected significantly (it may be up to 70% more transmissible) – although, thank goodness, there is no evidence to suggest it is any more dangerous in its effect or that the vaccine will be any less effective against it. Nonetheless, the advice is that without tougher restrictions, this could put huge pressure on our NHS if the number of infections continues to grow at ever-increasing speed.
For this reason, Tier 4 will be imposed, meaning that households cannot mix over Christmas (unless in a support bubble). Non-essential shops, indoor gyms and leisure facilities and personal care facilities will be closed. Travel will be restricted. Those workers who can work from home should do so. Individuals can only meet one person from another household in an outdoor public space but everyone should stay at home as much as possible.
From the bottom of my heart, I am so very sorry to all Harlow and village residents who will not be able to celebrate Christmas in the way we all thought we were going to be allowed to. I had really wanted the Christmas Covid-19 ‘amnesty’ to take place because I knew how hard it has been for everyone not to be able to see their loved ones.
We have had a difficult few weeks and months but the vaccine is being rolled out to thousands of residents in Harlow and, if we all do our best to stay safe and follow the rules, we will get over the worst of it.
I wish every resident a peaceful and happy Christmas under these difficult circumstances that we find ourselves.