A winter lockdown would be 'disastrous' for businesses, say county leaders
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Business leaders in Suffolk have said a further lockdown this winter would be "disastrous" for the county after the government announced booster vaccination plans, seeking to avoid shutting shops, pubs and restaurants again.
Health secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons today that booster vaccines will be offered to people aged 50 and over, those in care homes, and frontline health and social care workers from next week.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be used as the booster dose for around 30 million people, with experts saying it is safe to be given alongside the usual winter flu jab.
People will be able to get their Covid and flu vaccines on the same day, preferably with one shot in each arm.
Mr Javid said that the NHS would contact all those who are eligible and was preparing to offer the jabs from next week.
The government looks set to put its trust in the vaccination campaign as it seeks to avoid another lockdown.
Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said further lockdowns will be an "absolutely last resort" under the plan.
Mr Javid said if there was a surge in infections and it became unsustainable for the NHS, masks, working from home advice and vaccine passports would be needed.
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Paul Simon, head of policy and communications at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, called on the government to be "open and transparent" over its coronavirus planning.
“Suffolk Chamber is hopeful that there is only a minimal risk of national lockdowns being imposed during the coming winter," he said.
"As we’ve seen previously, lockdowns are incredibly disruptive to our members and the wider business community here in Suffolk and have a negative impact on confidence and investment levels.”
“Aside from such nuclear options, we have called on the government to be open and transparent about its scenario planning, so that businesses can anticipate when the evidence from available Covid-19 or flu data, such as infection rates or new variants, or NHS capacity issues, is likely to necessitate a change in guidance.
"This will allow businesses to make reasonable adjustments ahead of time and so minimise disruption to their operations, supply chains and customers.
“Ultimately, it’s all about good communications and ensuring that the county’s entrepreneurs are treated with the respect they deserve; after all they can work through most challenges short of full lockdowns as they’ve proven time and again over the last year-and-a -half.”
Latest NHS data shows that 70 beds were occupied by coronavirus patients across the region's three main hospitals on September 7, 2021.
This compares with 72 patients on October 27 prior to the November lockdown, and 19 people in hospital before the first lockdown - although testing was less widespread then.
Nationally, the number of patients in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 stood at 8,256 on September 10.
This is up 8% week-on-week and is the highest level since March 10, when the total stood at 8,436.
Patient numbers are still well below levels seen in the second wave, however.
Mark Cordell, chief executive for Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District (BID), said: "Our Bury St Edmunds BID is reassured that the government is looking at a variety of contingency plans to do all that they can to prevent lockdowns over the autumn and winter.
"If these did occur, it would be disastrous for local businesses, so we would urge all members of the public to take advantage of a variety of measures to reduce the likelihood of increasing transmission of the virus - and are confident that the people of Bury St Edmunds will remain as sensible as they have been throughout the year to do all they can to prevent this."
In terms of coronavirus deaths, there were none in Suffolk on September 8, 2021 (data for more recent days is incomplete), with a seven day average (to September 5) of 0.9.
In Essex, there was also a single death on September 8, with a seven-day average (to September 5) of 2.1.
At the equivalent point in wave two of the virus (day 115, or December 24), average daily deaths in Essex stood at 20.1, while in Suffolk it was just under 6.9.
Deaths so far have remained consistently well below those seen during the second wave.
This reflects the success of the vaccination programme, with figures for England suggesting the vaccines have so far directly averted around 112,300 deaths.