I have followed the pandemic very closely over the last year. Since last March four members of my family have contracted Covid, one of whom died. So for me it’s highly personal.
Worryingly, the infection rates in parts of the in South Leeds are among the highest in the city. We still need to be extremely vigilant. This virus remains a mutating and murderous foe. Hospital admissions and infection rates ae still too high.
The Public Health advice remains the same. We all know it and we need to apply it.
If you have to leave your home, please remember:
- HANDS – wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds or more
- FACE – wear a face covering in any indoor space except inside your home
- SPACE – Keep a 2 metre distance from others
If you, or anyone in your household, has symptoms, self-isolate and book a free test by visiting www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or calling 199.
If you are self-isolating and don’t have friends or family locally who can help or, if you cannot afford to pay for essential items such as food, gas and electric, call the Council’s Welfare Support Team on (0113) 376 0330.
People on low incomes or certain benefits who have been told by the NHS to self-isolate may be entitled to £500. For further information visit www.leeds.gov.uk/selfisolationsupport or call (0113) 376 0452.
And please take up your vaccination when it is offered.
It’s crucial we don’t squander the sacrifices we’ve made, or the fantastic work of our front line services, especially the NHS and social care; or the brilliant Council funded Covid hubs (Hamara, Slung Low and Involve), foodbanks, charities, community groups and individual volunteers.
Covid has obviously affected many more people than it has infected. People suffering from other conditions have had their treatment cancelled or postponed. Many have lost jobs, incomes and businesses. Education and mental health have suffered.
It’s been a long haul. It is understandable that some people are losing trust, patience, and the willingness to comply with social distancing, mask wearing and staying home. Gaps in financial support means too many people are forced to choose between beating the virus and putting food on the table.
South Leeds was already in an extremely vulnerable position before COVID arrived. Women’s life expectancy was falling; men’s had levelled out. Infant mortality rates were also causing concern.
It’s no surprise that research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows the areas hit hardest are those with large numbers of part-time, low paid workers, BAME households, women in hard-hit sectors struggling with childcare, and private and social renters.
Thankfully, the rollout of the vaccines is progressing well in Leeds. That’s because it’s locally driven by the public sector. That’s in huge contrast to the national, top-down failures of contracts doled out to private sector organisations for key initiatives like Test and Trace, distribution of PPE, and provision of free school meals.
When we emerged from the first lockdown we were promised a “world beating” Test, Track and Trace system to protect us from the spread of the virus. It has never delivered. By contrast the small amount of tracing delegated to Leeds has achieved a much higher rate of contact. Leeds has also led the way in terms of funding Covid hubs, decent free school meals and distributing PPE.
Some people genuinely believed a balance could be struck between the virus and the economy. But Covid doesn’t do compromises. That approach condemned us to three lockdowns and 125,000 deaths so far. The UK has not only had one of the highest death rates in the world, but also one of the worst economic recoveries. Apparently, only Argentina out of the top 37 economies in the world has done worse. The countries that have most successfully re-opened their economies are the ones that have concentrated on suppressing the virus.
The Government’s commitment to “data, not dates” is long overdue. Despite seeing what was happening in France and Italy last February and March, we went into the first lockdown too late. Boris Johnson couldn’t bring himself to attend Covid emergency meetings.
He joked about shaking hands with Covid victims. He allowed super spreader sports events to go ahead. He chuckled that we could defeat the virus by washing our hands while singing Happy Birthday.
Studies have suggested the March lockdown delay needlessly cost 20,000 people their lives. Patients discharged into care homes spread the disease there. Over 25,000 care home residents have now died.
We owe it to ourselves and all those who have died or suffered as a result of Covid to continue doing the right thing. That way we can move forward, and not have to keep going back.
This post was written by Cllr Paul Truswell
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