Following on from my blog last Friday, I wanted to provide you with an update on my activities.
Last Thursday, I attended an emergency meeting with the Council and fellow Oldham MPs, in response to the worrying levels of the Covid-19 infection rates across the borough.
During this meeting, myself, Jim McMahon and Angela Rayner asked the Council for enhanced monitoring and tougher enforcement of the restrictions in place, to prevent a full lockdown from the Government. Since this meeting, the following multi-agency actions are taking place to respond to the local situation:
– Significant increase in testing capacity – this week there are 4 Mobile Testing Units across the Borough plus doorstep testing. The Counc have also encouraged home testing kits which can be ordered via 119.
– Significant increase in enforcement and compliance visits to business premises – led by multi-disciplinary teams of environmental health, licensing and Greater Manchester Police (GMP). This has led to Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) at supermarkets for non-compliance with mask wearing and FPNs linked to house parties and large gatherings.
– Deployed multiple teams of door to door engagement staff (Council and partner staff including Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Services, GMP, Housing colleagues) in hotspot areas supplemented by community volunteers from local mosques and community groups. This is opening up dialogues about current behaviour and compliance and driving take up of testing in these harder hit areas.
– Increase in direct communications – leaflets to all households, targeted and universal digital marketing and use of community networks
– A partnership approach with numerous agencies working together across the borough. For example, housing association colleagues contacting every tenant proactively by phone to share Public Health messaging this week.
– Local follow up of track and trace is now live – though there are small numbers, there are good success rates in contacting those currently being passed on. This approach also signposts to local support for self-isolation.
Following my urgent call for local residents to do their duty to prevent a local lockdown, I have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock along with fellow Oldham MPs calling for support from the government, not a blunt lockdown which isn’t supported by evidence of transmission, but would devastate our economy and cost more job losses. This can be read here. The infection rates have slightly reduced in the last few days in the Borough (83.1 per 100,000 people for the week end 15th August, down from 109.7 per 100,000 in the previous week) which is positive news but the numbers are still too high.
Yesterday, I attended a meeting with Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection and the Executive Chair of the NHS Test and Trace programme, Baroness Dido Harding, Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety Nadine Dorries MP, fellow Oldham MPs and Council Leader and senior officials. During this meeting, the case was made for Oldham to be provided with more time, to prevent a local lockdown and the challenges we are facing locally including with the Test and Trace programme. Currently only 1 in 2 people is traced by the national programme and the programme must ensure everyone who tests positive is traced.
I am also liaising on a regular basis with Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham to identify routes of transmission which potentially stretch across Greater Manchester and could also impact Oldham. I am also in discussion with local Public Health teams to analyse local Covid-19 data.
It is vitally important that we have the right resources in place locally so we can effectively fight this pandemic but we also rely on local residents to do their bit and follow the restrictions which are detailed here. This is why I directly contacted the Health Secretary earlier this week, to ensure promised financial support from Government which is essential to help Oldham Council and local public health officials combat the high infection levels is delivered.
Please be assured, as your Member of Parliament, I will continue to work hard on our Covid-19 response in Oldham and Saddleworth.
Do continue to look after yourself and each other.