Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham: Coronavirus is still with us and the data is crucial to understanding it

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And sometimes it becomes difficult to decipher what is truth and what is not. But it is clear that the virus remains a serious public health crisis and we cannot be complacent in thinking we have conquered it.

Over the summer we made significant progress locally in suppressing the virus and many areas had little to no cases with those that did showing a clear downward trajectory in almost all instances. Over the last two weeks, however, that trend has reversed and we are seeing increases in case numbers in every part of our community.

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And this week that resulted in the number of coronavirus cases in a seven-day period reaching over 300 infections per 100,000 people. I know this has concerned many people across the borough, particularly as it puts us at the top of the national list on a per 100,000 basis.

Burnley MP Antony HigginbothamBurnley MP Antony Higginbotham
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

It shows us why it is so important for us to work together to tackle the virus. Because never has our collective action as a community had such an ability to impact on our individual health. With the virus being as infectious as it is – four times more so than a normal flu – we can no longer just consider what measures we need to take to protect ourselves.

Hands, face, space is as much about protecting those around us as it is for us individually.

We now need to redouble our efforts to get these figures back under control and see the virus suppressed. I’ve spent the last few days talking through the data with the local authority and the Secretary of State for Health trying to understand how we can target our intervention based on where the virus is spreading.

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Because as we move through the pandemic that’s what we need to be doing - targeted intervention, in the right place, and at the lowest possible level. That will allow us to protect the local economy in Burnley and Padiham by making sure it can stay open, protecting jobs; as well as ensure our young people can continue to go to school and learn.

I know that it’s been a rough time for our area and Covid fatigue is hitting us. That’s why that redoubling is so important. Preventative measures like social distancing, handwashing and facemasks make a real difference and we now have more tools at our disposal.

The NHS Covid-19 app has beaten records for the number of downloads in the UK, shooting past 12 million downloads in less than seven days.

And if you haven’t yet got it I would encourage it. It’s the way our NHS workers can get in touch with you if you’ve been in contact with someone; how you can check your symptoms; and how you can book a test.

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The next few weeks will be crucial and we have an opportunity to do what we have already done once before – push the virus back down. And in doing so we won’t just be working towards removing additional restrictions that impact all of our daily lives, we’ll also be helping to protect our friends, family and neighbours.

There has also been significant discussion this week in Parliament about the level of scrutiny of the measures being announced to help stop the spread. When the pandemic first hit back in March there was a clear recognition that Government must act fast and it wouldn’t always be possible to seek Parliamentary approval before a measure was needed.

Whilst this is a well established principle it was only intended to be used for a short period and so had to come to an end at some point.

With the virus potentially being with us for many more months yet it is therefore welcome that proper Parliamentary scrutiny will resume. This means that in most cases Parliament will get the time to consider proposals and the impact they would have not just on supressing the virus, but on lives, livelihoods and liberties, before they are enacted.