The Prime Minister announced tonight that England will enter lockdown. Once again, we must stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.
Sadly, this is necessary due to the rapid spread of the new coronavirus variant. Scientists have confirmed that it is between 50-70% more transmissible.
This new variant means people are much more likely to catch the virus and pass it on. That's why the virus is now spreading rapidly. On the 29th December, a record 80,000 people across England tested positive for the virus.
This has potentially severe consequences for the NHS. The number of patients in English hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week to almost 27,000. That's 40% higher than the first peak in April 2020.
And the number of deaths is up by 20% in the past week and is sadly expected to rise further.
Across the London Borough of Bromley, including Orpington, coronavirus is spreading rapidly. The rate of infection is now 1041.4 cases per 100,000 people. That's a huge rise in our area's infection rate which was only 168.2 on 1st December.
Our local NHS Trust has seen the number of coronavirus patients in its hospitals rise sharply to 482. Sadly, this is still increasing and could pass the level seen in the first peak in April 2020. In mid-December, there were only about 100 coronavirus patients locally.
Unless we act now, the NHS will likely be overwhelmed, which would prevent it from providing care to everybody who needs it. If this nightmare scenario happened, many more people could die from coronavirus and other illnesses.
To stop the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives, we must all stay at home except where necessary.
Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term. Early Years settings remain open.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work.
Crucially, the NHS is now rolling out two vaccines. So, unlike last March's lockdown, there is light at the end of the tunnel. By the middle of February, the NHS could have provided the first vaccination dose to the country's most vulnerable.
If this goal is met, it doesn't mean restrictions can end overnight - the vaccine takes time to work, and we will have to remain vigilant. However, it does give us a path out of lockdown and back into normality.
My team and I are here to help constituents struggling during this crisis, so if you need support, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.