In the face of huge challenges presented by Covid-19, the resilience of our communities in Maidstone & The Weald has been absolutely inspiring. I am sure that same community spirit will help control the resurgence of the virus we are experiencing across the UK and, indeed, much of Europe.
In Maidstone, the current rate of infection is 35.5 per 100,000 people, compared with 17 in the last week of September. Alongside the national average of 117 we are low, but clearly there is no room for complacency. This increase, I am pleased to say, has not translated into a rise in Covid-19 related admissions at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals, who are receiving 1 or 2 Coronavirus patients per day. At the end of last week, they were caring for four people with Covid-19 in total.
This week the Government have announced a new ‘three-tier’ approach to Coronavirus restrictions. Maidstone and The Weald is currently in Tier 1, which is the least restrictive, requiring us to continue to abide by current rules on social distancing, adhering to the rule of six and respecting the 10pm curfew on hospitality venues.
These restrictions represent an appropriate balance between controlling the virus and allowing as much of our economy as possible to continue to function. We must learn to live alongside this virus because, even with the prospect of a vaccine and further therapeutic drugs on the horizon, it is likely to be with us for some time to come.
A further crucial element of our health protection is maintaining continued access to NHS treatments, such as cancer diagnostics and treatments which are unrelated to the Covid-19 pandemic. I congratulate Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust for their efforts in returning towards last year’s levels for this area of healthcare as well as elective operations. This has required the scheduling of extra outpatient appointments in the evenings and at weekends.
Furthermore, at Pembury hospital, a separate Critical Care Unit for Covid-19 patients has been created. This is a welcome development as it ensures that clinicians can care for Covid patients safely but still maintain as much outpatient activity as possible.
The months ahead are likely to remain challenging for many of us, but our community spirit and common sense will help us to control the virus and allow our NHS and our economy to remain open for business.