This week, in the parking regulated streets of Rye town centre, contractors have been installing the new ticket machines for the start of civil parking enforcement (CPE) at the end of the month. The introduction of the scheme is sure to provide much to debate in the coming weeks and may serve to take some minds off the worsening national Covid-19 situation, which preoccupied ministers over last weekend.
On Wednesday, September 23, Public Health England reported nearly 25,000 new infections and 40 Covid-19 related deaths in England in the previous seven days. These figures prompted several days of dire warnings.
Two days before, on Monday, September 21, the government’s chief medical advisers advised that without further action the UK could see 50,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October and perhaps about “200-plus deaths per day” as we move through November. The reproduction number, or R value, for Covid-19 was officially averaging above one across the UK again, although it varies by region. The government advisers said that we were at a “critical point” and facing a “very challenging winter”. They said that “At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days, which requires speedy action to bring the numbers down.” “If we do too little, this virus will go out of control.”
The national picture contrasts somewhat with the position in East Sussex, where the seven-day average number of cases is only “steadily increasing” and below the national average. Looking at the data surrounding Rye and district, Hastings saw only “sporadic cases” in June and July, but the rate increased last month, resulting in the highest weekly-rate for any part of East Sussex. In the period to 15 September, the rate was 202 per 100,000 population. In Rother District to the same period the rate was 230 per 100,000. East Sussex Council confirmed that Rother has seen a “notable increase” in cases during September. These compare to the figures for England as 580 per 100,000 and the south east as 440 per 100,000.
In Kent, the rate is higher. Public Health England has just reported a rate of 562.5 per 100,000. Kent County Council’s data indicates that 423 of 600 Kent schools have returned with 160,563 pupils attending since the September restart, representing a 90% turnout. 34 schools have reported Covid-related incidents resulting in some staff or pupils self-isolating. Securing tests remains the “biggest constraint” on the education sector.
The East Sussex Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) met on September 10 to consider the local impact of the pandemic. The director of public health for East Sussex acknowledged that as infection rates in Hastings and Rother have been relatively low, he and the University of Sussex were considering the factors which might have influenced the situation. He speculated that Hastings Council had taken some early action to cancel events in the spring, resulting in fewer people drawn into town before the lockdown. This of course does not explain why there appears to have been little impact locally after the large crowds of visitors descended on Camber and Winchelsea Beach during the hot weather. The study will make interesting reading when it is published.
Increasing infection numbers have caused the community support hubs to review the position and consider how best to react if the position worsens as Rye Mutual Aid has been doing just this week. The Rye Food Bank continues to be well committed and providing support to many families in the area.
Nationally, after speculation about a nationwide mini-lockdown, or “circuit breaks”, the prime minister on Tuesday, September 22, outlined new policy to curb the infection rate. Covering what some have described as “draconian measures” he suggested that they could be in force for six months. The list includes:
- Penalties for not wearing a mask or gathering in groups of more than six will increase to £200 on the first offence.
- From Thursday, September 24 all pubs, bars and restaurants will be restricted to table service only, but takeaways can continue at usual hours.
- From Thursday, September 24, places of hospitality must close at 10pm, with last orders timed to allow that. Takeaways will have to switch to delivery only at this point.
- Customers in indoor hospitality venues have to wear masks, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
- Those who can work from home should do so where possible;
- From Monday, September 28 face coverings must be worn by shop staff, taxi drivers and passengers.
- The planned return of spectators to sports venues from Thursday, October 1 will not go ahead.
- Exemptions to the “rule of six” for indoor team sports such as five-a-side football matches will end.
- No more than 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions.
There was little on test and trace, which the Nuffield Trust has described this week as “a system still weighed down by inefficiencies and uncertainties throughout the process”.
Some academics have suggested that the new measures represent politics before science but what is clear is that the “bumpy ride” predicted last week is set to continue for a while yet.
Please remember that after using the new parking meters, do sanitise your hands.
Image Credits: Anthony Kimber , UK Government .