Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to draw your attention to the escalating and alarming situation in Essex due to the pandemic. We are committed to using all the resources at our disposal to work with you to tackle this virus to protect local residents.

You will have access to the official statistics that show the startling rate of increase in Essex Covid cases. Just today the Royal Mail has declared a number of areas in Essex where deliveries are now seriously disrupted.

Covid deaths in Essex hospitals have risen sharply from 44 in the week ending 20th December to over 150 in the week ending the 29th December. On 30th December we were the first county to be forced to declare a major incident at our hospitals. Since then, patients have been transferred to Cambridge and even further afield. Currently, despite urgent measures, there are still more than 1,000 people in our hospitals being treated with confirmed Covid. You will be aware that Southend Hospital has had a “critical situation” regarding Oxygen capacity.

Our local NHS is under pressure like never before.

We want to continue to work constructively and collaboratively with you, your department and the Government as we look to protect our residents from the very worst impacts of COVID 19.

Obviously, the vaccine is the route out of the pandemic and we will do all we can to support the vaccination of our local communities. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss ways in which we can support this programme across Essex.

On 15th October you committed to LFD testing in Essex, and although we are now seeing testing being rolled out across Essex, I am sure you will share our dismay that it taken so long to set this up and is not yet at the capacity needed.

We suggest the following ways in which this can be urgently improved in order to rapidly increase testing capacity to ten times the current levels across all boroughs and unitary authority areas in Essex:

  • Remote Lateral Flow Testing sites should not just be available in indoor settings but also in remote sites, such as using supermarket car parks, council car parks or whatever public land is available
  • LFD testing should be available to all residents once a week
  • Large scale manufacturing businesses must be required to report the number of staff tested each week and the number of positive cases.
  • You will also understand that one of the barriers for some residents to regular testing are the concerns about self-isolation and the consequent financial pressures. We urge that the Government immediately considers increasing the Test and Trace Isolation payment to a level which ensures that residents don’t have to choose between putting food on the table of following the rules, and that far greater publicity is given to this.

As the pace of the vaccine roll out increases, it is incumbent on all of us to do everything within our power to slow the spread of this disease. Without further measures, such as those outlined above, we do not believe that the current national lockdown will be sufficient here in Essex to tackle this crisis and we urge you to take these steps without delay.

We will use every tool at our disposal to assist you to ensure their quick and effective implementation.

We are copying Barones Angela Smith of Basildon into this correspondence as she shares our concerns and is supporting us in our efforts. We ask for an urgent meeting with you, or your officials, to look at the further urgent measures that need to be taken.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin Callaghan – Leader of Basildon Council

Ian Gilbert – Leader of Southend Council

Mark Ingall – Leader of Harlow Council

Tina Bourne – Labour Leader Colchester Council

Ivan Henderson – Labour Leader Essex County Council


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