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Dear constituent

I am writing to you with a further update about the coronavirus pandemic.

Firstly, just to confirm that there has been no change to our current Tier 4 status, with the next review in two weeks time.

Details of the Tier 4 rules are here.

Latest Surrey Infection Rates

There has been a continued increase in the number of new infections in our area over the past couple of weeks. The latest information for the rate of infections in Surrey is here.

This is now manifesting itself in increased pressure on our local hospitals. I talk regularly to the team at Epsom and St Helier and they report a significant increase in the number of patients and many of the emergency measures taken in the spring now being repeated. For example the Elective Orthopaedic Unit at Epsom has now been taken over for Covid patients again.

Vaccination Programme

Many people have asked me about the vaccination programme and how it is working and will work locally.

The first thing to stress is that it is in the very early stages and only a small proportion of the vaccines we need have so far been delivered by the manufacturers. The plan is to vaccinate according to a list of vulnerabilities to the virus put together by a committee of independent experts.

This is their recommended prioritisation:

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. all those 75 years of age and over
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
  5. all those 65 years of age and over
  6. all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality all those 60 years of age and over
  7. all those 55 years of age and over
  8. all those 50 years of age and over

This order has been chosen as it is the people most vulnerable to death or serious illness who are being put first in the queue.

It will take time for the programme to be completed. As of now just under a million vaccinations in the UK have taken place – but there are more than 3.5 million just in groups 1 and 2. The rate at which vaccinations take place will match the delivery of vaccines from the manufacturers, and the approval for the Astra Zeneca/Oxford vaccine will make a big difference to this – particularly as it is much easier to distribute and can be kept in a normal fridge.

In our area the vaccines will be administered either by GP practices or at local vaccination hubs like the one that has been established at Epsom Downs Racecourse.

But it is important to stress that it is going to take some months to produce enough vaccines for all these groups and to administer the jabs. So if you haven’t heard from the NHS yet, or you know that some other people in your age group have received their jabs, please don’t panic. A vaccine is on its way for you and the NHS will be in touch with you when it is your turn. Please don’t chase your practice in advance.

Equally in the early stages, some of the vaccinations are being done one GP practice area at a time. So if you hear that another local practice is organising vaccines for its patients, do not panic. It just isn’t possible to do every practice at once – this has to be a phased process.

But I am hopeful that by the spring most if not all of the most vulnerable people will have been vaccinated and the restrictions will have started to be lifted well before then.

Changes for Schools, Colleges and Universities

You may also be aware that the Government has announced changed plans for schools, colleges and universities for the start of next term, given the surge in the number of cases of the virus.

All the details for our area are here.

Primary schools will return as planned next week. We are not affected by the delays to primaries in other parts of the South East. Exam year secondary school students will return on the 11th of January, and remaining secondary school students a week later on the 18th.

The start of the university term has already been delayed for many students, particularly for those who do not need face-to-face technical teaching. If you are affected, your university will be able to provide details.

Face Masks

Finally I am getting a lot of calls from worried residents about the number of people not wearing masks when they are out and about. People are not obliged to wear a mask when outdoors and able to socially distance, or if they have a particular health condition. But they are required to do so otherwise, for example when on public transport or in a shop. If you are not currently doing so, I would ask you to consider the worry you are causing to other people around you, and to put one on.

I will keep you updated as and when there are further developments.

Best wishes

Chris Grayling