Sunday, 14 February 2021

Covid 19 - One year on - Prescient thoughts from the archive!

 On the 22 February last year I asked for consideration of the coronavirus to be added for discussion to Kirklees Council's Leading Members meeting.

At this time there were a total of 13 confirmed cases in the UK. 4 of which had come from people disembarking on a cruise ship. It was only 3 weeks after the first 2 cases were discovered and quickly isolated in York. The first clusters of cases had started appearing in Northern Italy and I got a really bad feeling about its ability to travel so far so fast.

Reading it back the email I sent to the Council's Chief Executive and other Party Leaders seems rather prescient sadly:-

"Are we developing/have a plan for a possible serious outbreak in Kirklees/West Yorkshire?

 A few thoughts off the top of my head

 Addressing and limiting fear has to be a top priority as well as mythbusting.

 A Public Information campaign on the reality of the Coronavirus has to be an essential - How it's transmitted. How dangerous is it actually compared with other diseases. What precautions get the balance right between  being effective/proportionate/limiting fear.

 We need to appreciate how long precautions against a pandemic may last. A month? a year? Will Huddersfield, Leeds or Sheffield or anywhere end up in lockdown with limited public transport/ check points and people being told not to leave their homes for weeks at a time. Is it possible for the UK to take China style measures given our different cultures and expectations regarding authority.

 What guidance have we received regarding Local Authority response to a Coronavirus outbreak and are funds are being made available for additional demands on social care and other services

 Getting more staff to work from home is obviously something to explore as well as video conferencing even for people working in the same building perhaps.

 Huddersfield is a University town with a large student populations. We need to ensure that they and particularly the chinese community do not become a target for racist attacks on the back of Corona outbreak. We also need to coordinate with University authorities to ensure our actions are coordinated and complementary.

 Setting up the equivalent of a local COBRA committee to strengthen a multi agency response would be a good idea and with guidance to do this formulated jointly by LGA and the appropriate Govt departments.

 Engaging the power of the community to look out for vulnerable people and to disseminate information will be a key task for us to extend our reach.

 Do we need a regional/sub regional approach to this potential problem?"

That was on 22nd of February. A week later the first Covid infection for someone who had not come from abroad was detected. A week after that the first death in the UK was announced. The following week 250,000 attended the Cheltenham Festival and 52,000 attended the Liverpool V Athetico Madrid match with 5000 Spanish spectators. By the 23rd of March we entered the first national lockdown. 

My main reflection is that National Government acted far too slowly and that cost lives, thousands of them. At some point they must be held to account for what they did and didn't do. If they are allowed to portray the vaccine roll out as some form of victory then democracy will have failed us again. The seriousness of this crisis required an all Party approach and not a partisan one. The Conservatives should have sought talents from all parties to come together to address the crisis and sadly it never did. Coming from a Party that must make best use of its often limited influence I am annoyed beyond words when politicians in power waste their opportunities to act. That is as true of the Conservative Government in Westminster as it is of Labour Administration in Kirklees.

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