Last night, the Prime Minister announced that England would go into a second lockdown from Thursday 5 November to Wednesday 2 December.
This is unwelcome news, but sadly, it is necessary. The local approach we have pursued in the past few weeks has lowered the R rate. But not by enough.
New modelling has shown that the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst-case scenario of our scientific advisers.
In the London Borough of Bromley, including Orpington, the rate of infection is now 126 cases per 100,000 people. Two weeks ago, the rate was 76. And five weeks ago, the rate was only 16.
While Orpington is starting with a much lower rate of infection than other parts of the country, we are heading in the same direction and quickly.
While the NHS across London has not yet seen a substantial rise in hospitalisations and deaths, that is due to the long delay between someone catching the virus and passing away. That is why we must act now to prevent cases soaring.
If we do not act, there is a strong likelihood that the NHS will be overrun with coronavirus patients in a matter of weeks. That could mean that not only would several of thousands of people be dying each day from the virus, but the NHS would not be able to offer the medical care that thousands more people need for other illnesses.
This will be a time-limited lockdown to drive down the number of infections. When it ends, we will return to the local approach with the three-tiered system, which is already in place. If we drive the infection down enough, it is possible we could exit lockdown in Tier 1.
Crucially, this second lockdown is different to the full-scale one earlier this year. Here are the key things you need to know:
1) You must stay at home - only leave home for food, medical reasons, exercise, education or work.
2) Non-essential businesses must close - food shops, supermarkets, takeaways, and click and collect services may remain open.
3) Your must work from home if you can - where people cannot work from home (such as construction or manufacturing) you should continue to go to work.
4) Schools, colleges and universities will remain open - senior clinicians still advise that school is the best place for children to be. Parents should continue to take children to school.
5) You can meet one other person outside - outdoors space include, parks, countryside and public gardens. You cannot meet in a private garden.
6) Furlough has been extended - workers in any part of the UK can retain their job, even if their employer cannot afford to pay them and be paid at least 80% of their salary up to £2500 a month.
The full breakdown of what this lockdown means can be found here.
I know this will be a worrying time for many people and businesses across the Orpington constituency. MPs will be considering these new measures this week, and I will be seeking assurances from the Government that an appropriate support package will be provided to businesses.
My team and I are here to help you through this crisis. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.