7 November 2020
What is Talking Points?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every fortnight. Here, we share our response to the question. NB: This week’s talking point was unfortunately not published. Submissions are made a week in advance; the question was about Cambridge entering Tier 2 lockdown protocols, however due to the government's decision over the weekend, Cambridge News' Head of Print felt that the submissions were no longer appropriate.
Today's question: Do you think Cambridge should follow other regions by adopting Tier 2 measures? Sadiq Khan has said: “When you get to 100 per 100,000, that’s the trigger point to go into Tier 2.” On October 17, Elmbridge, Surrey, was put into a Tier 2 lockdown after its Covid-19 infection rate reached 132.3 cases per 100,000 people. On October 22, Harry Gold reported a similar rate - 130.6 cases per 100,000 - being recorded in Cambridge. But no lockdown. Why is that?
An effective response to the pandemic needs trust in government. This has already been eroded greatly. With Manchester, Liverpool and many others going into Tier 3 lockdown, the north-south divide has been accentuated. The government needs to dramatically improve its communication and work with Local Government, to produce the information needed to determine the restrictions which would work best in tackling COVID in different locations, and the support needed for those most affected.
The seven day average to 20th October shows Cambridge’s rate as 163.5 positive cases per 100,000 people. This is higher than Elmbridge, Surrey, which went into a Tier 2 lockdown at 132.3 cases. Naturally, the situation is more nuanced: within Cambridge, Central and West has 78 cases and a rate of 515.2, but there are only six cases in Barnwell and Abbey - a rate of 67. This discrepancy is largely due to the University’s testing of asymptomatic students.
Public health balances the impact of the disease through illness with our knowledge of what we are, where and how we live, the jobs we have and need, and our places of study. The overall number for Cambridge indicates that we should be in discussion with government about Tier 2, clearly a path to reducing the reproduction number (R). However, given that the variable impact of this on our lives (some will suffer much more than others), we need to plan carefully, and highlight the discrepancies between wards when finding the solution.
If this results in an exemption, the government must publish its reasoning immediately to maintain public trust. If Tier 2 is needed, the government must provide sufficient financial support to those impacted. With 2,281 school pupils eligible for free school meals in Cambridge, if we go into lockdown, what will the government do to support them?
Our response was written by Richard Potter. Richard has lived in Cambridge for the last 27 years. He has worked for Cambridgeshire County Council, the Office for National Statistics and the Civil Service in roles to provide information on which policy decisions can be made, work he still does. He has a commitment to fairness in a world we can live in.