I am very pleased that Covid restrictions have now been lifted. It is a huge step along the Government’s roadmap and, after such a difficulty year, it is a decision that I am sure will be welcomed by many.
The decision to introduce such restrictions was very difficult and one that I and my ministerial colleagues did not take lightly. However, decisive and effective action was needed due to the incredible speed in the growth of cases and to ensure that the NHS could continue to treat those who were suffering from more serious health problems.
The lifting of legal restrictions, however, sadly does not mean that the pandemic is over. Whilst we are now at a stage, thanks largely to the enormously successful vaccination programme, when the number of serious Covid cases is now at a manageable level and our NHS is not under any serious threat, we must bear in mind that there is still a significant proportion of the population who have yet to receive both doses of the vaccine or who may have not received their vaccine at all due to health reasons or due to their age. It is for those reasons that those who are asked to isolate by the NHS via its app or the Test and Trace team must do so, and also why some businesses and transport companies will continue to ask that customers continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
The latest figures show that across Essex the number of cases has begun to fall, having risen very sharply over the last month. However, this was not the case in Maldon District where the number of cases at the end of last week was up by 20 per cent on the previous week to 446 per 100,000. The good news is that for most the symptoms are not severe and it may be that numbers are actually higher still with a lot of people having such mild symptoms that they are not being tested. However, hospitalisation rates have also risen with 129 beds occupied by Covid patients across Essex on 26 July, up from 80 the previous week.
The figures clearly demonstrate that Covid has not yet been beaten and that we need to remain safe by adopting sensible precautions such as masks and distancing in crowded places. It is also essential that everyone over 18 should ensure that they receive both doses of the vaccine unless there are medical reasons for them not to do so. I would therefore urge anyone reading this who may have not received their vaccinations to make sure you get yours as soon as possible so that we can return to a pre-pandemic normality as soon as possible.
Away from Covid, Parliament has now risen for recess until September, however, my work will continue over the summer and I will be kept busy with not only my ministerial duties, but also assisting constituents and answering correspondence as usual.