Things I learned about Covid at last week’s Health & Wellbeing Board in Liverpool

Covid-19 is now attacking communities the length and breadth of Liverpool from rich to poor from white to black and from community to community. Every single one of us needs to be on a guard to make our City safer and get life back to a new normal.

The news that the Coronavirus has struck at the heart of the American Government is both shocking and unsurprising. Shocking because in theory the President is one of the most protected people in the world. Unsurprising because he has led events where a brew of circumstances was likely to led to wide scale infections. I got the news the day after I attended a meeting of Liverpool’s Health & Wellbeing Board.

Yesterday I tweeted the sad news that Church Ward, the part of Liverpool 18 that I represent with Liz and Andrew Makinson, had the second highest level of infections (per head of population) in the City. The rise has been steep and sharp. For more than two months we didn’t have a firm figure it was just shown on the ‘Council league table’ as being under 5. Yesterday it was 46 people infected in the last 7 days. That number will continue to rise.

It is important that everyone in the City reflects on this. I have heard people saying that they were unlikely to be affected because they were young; or ate well; or were in good health; or didn’t work in the NHS or care sectors or didn’t live in multi-agency households. Those illusions should be shattered. The number of people in the wealthiest wards of Liverpool as a whole has shot up. Did people go on chancy foreign holidays? Did they pour into restaurants and cafes to take advantage of the £10 discount? Did they let their guard down because they thought they were exempt? Probably all these had some parts to play in the huge increase in numbers.

While I was in the Board meeting, which is a meeting of Council and NHS staff and Councillors, I heard some interesting facts that I thought I would share with you.

  1. Two weeks after a rise in infections there is a rise in hospital admissions and two weeks after that a rise in deaths. We are now at higher rates of new cases than at any time since the pandemic started although a direct comparison is not possible because far more people are now, and belatedly, being tested.
  2. The rates of deaths will be proportionately less now because our physicians have learned which drugs and which treatments to use to lower the mortality rate.
  3. There was a 10-fold increase in Covid-19 cases in intensive care units between the first week of September and the last in the City. The ICUs are already now operating at near capacity at a time when numbers are still rising.
  4. 60,000 people nationally still suffered Covid symptoms after 3 months. This is a condition known as long-Covid. For reasons still not clearly understood some people recover quickly and some do not. Many people cannot fully function after 6 months and there is a real possibility they will never fully function again.
  5. Many young people who think they had a slight infection will find out that the virus has affected their internal organisations and will cause health problems in later life. The virus is causing a number of complications which may, at the time be almost undetectable. These include problems with liver, kidneys, lungs, brain and blood. People’s systems are clearly being weakened which will make them more susceptible to illness in later life.
  6. Most activities are safe if you undertake them socially distanced in the open air. As I write the sun is shining although it’s a bit nippy. Going out for a walk, a run, a cycle is good for both your physical and mental health. Talk to people outside your family at a good distance and keep fit.
  7. There were no detectable increases in infection after the 3 big LFC unofficial celebrations. This is linked to 6. I found this surprising given the doom warnings that were predicted BUT the science has changed. The problem with reopening sports grounds etc is not what happens so much whilst you were seated in reduced capacity grounds but how people behave and move around inside the venues; how you behave inside them; and how you get there.
  8. The NHS is expecting a 30% increase in mental ill health problems over the coming year. People are getting lonely. The elderly cannot see their children or grandchildren. Friends cannot meet. Normal funeral arrangements for some religions have been suspended. Our NHS and Care staff are working under unbelievable pressure for long periods of time and seeing things that they should not have to see in such quantities. We have to work out how each of us can do simple things within our community to show compassion to these people.

There are things about the laws and regulations that I do not understand. Why 15 for a wedding and 30 for a funeral? Why 22.00 for drinking at all types of venue but the off licence can stay open all night to fuel home and street parties?

Clearly, the Government has to do better with its messaging and explanations. Many people who want to follow the requirements to the letter are struggling to do so. Equally clearly the track and trace system is still a mess and needs bringing under local control as soon as possible. Trust in messaging has been eroded because of national figures like Dominic Cummings or local figures like Lock Down Lynnie (Hinnegan) and Barbecue Barry (Kushner).

However, in so far as I understand them, I will follow everyone of the regulations set out. Wearing a mask on public transport and indoors is not a badge of cowardice or an infringement of my civil liberties it is a mark of respect to everyone around me as is maintaining a safe social distance from others.

I urge you to do the same. If we want to take big steps forward in tackling this virus before a vaccine is found we all need to act responsibly as a good citizen. Please don’t be a Covidiot, be someone who shows care and compassion to your fellow Scousers.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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