This article was written by Damian and published in the Herald group of papers on 28th May:
Now that the peak of Covid-19 has passed, and the ‘R’ or reproduction rate has been coming down, we are moving into a new phase of gradually reopening parts of the economy and society more generally. Remaining cautious will continue to be important in controlling a virus for which we do not yet have a cure.
The data shown at the daily press conferences give us a clear picture of what is happening nationally but also in different regions. More localised data will become a critical part of managing the disease going forward. Access to local, mobile and home testing, and use of the track and trace system, facilitates a focused approach.
Across the country there is a network of bodies that comes into play during emergencies called Local Resilience Forums (LRFs). These bring together all the key local agencies to develop and manage the impact of an emergency. The Hampshire and Isle of Wight LRF represents local NHS hospital trusts and primary care services, local Public Health England services, Hampshire Constabulary, local authorities, Fire & Rescue, and other local services. They also liaise with the voluntary sector, coordinating especially through East Hants based Community First Hampshire.
The group monitors and tracks key data across the area, including the impact on local health services, the provision of PPE, the call on police services, and many other matters. Hampshire MPs have regular virtual meetings with the LRF, as well as separately with health services.
As an area, as we are all so well aware, there have been many personal tragedies, many families losing loved ones, and there have been great strains here as elsewhere on those working on behalf of us all on the frontline.
It is the case though that the collaborative working here has been effective. There has been capacity at all times in Hampshire hospitals, with contingencies also available if needed. Whilst PPE stocks have run low at times, the deliveries have continued to time, complemented by ‘mutual aid’ between different parts of the local health services, to secure supply for frontline staff.
The Hampshire-wide Covid-19 Helpline has successfully fielded calls from people across the area, identifying those in need of government-backed food supplies and linking others with local community groups for help and support. The voluntary sector response has been immense, indeed of a much greater scale than expectation.
Hampshire Constabulary have been clear about the primacy of engagement and encouragement, and have needed to issue only a small number of fines.
And with the ‘R’ rate in the South East below the national average, there was also the news last week that Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trusts is leading the trial of a new, rapid coronavirus test, which is being rolled out to a number of A&E departments, GP testing hubs and care homes across the county. This is a nationally-leading innovation from here in Hampshire. Up to 4,000 people of all ages and backgrounds will participate in the pilot, which will run for up to six weeks.
Preparations continue for the very cautious, gradual return of more children to school from next week. I know local schools have put a huge amount of thought and preparatory work into this, and there is very extensive guidance from the department for education on maintaining safety.
Our vigilance against Covid-19 remains of utmost importance. We can know that progress has been, and continues to be, sustained. That is down to the commitment and fortitude of everyone, alongside the dedication and selflessness of frontline staff."