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London Mayor declares “major incident” due to rapid spread of virus

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today declared a ‘major incident’ due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus across the capital and the increase of Covid-19 cases in hospitals, which has left the NHS at risk of being overwhelmed.

The Mayor took the decision as the formal Chair of the London Resilience Forum following discussions with leaders from NHS London, local authorities, Public Health England and the emergency services in the capital.

It comes as the number of Covid-19 cases in London has exceeded 1,000 per 100,000, putting immense pressure on an already stretched NHS. Between 30 December and 6 January, the number of patients in London hospitals grew by 27 per cent (from 5,524 to 7,034) and the number on mechanical ventilation grew by 42 per cent (from 640 to 908). Over the last three days alone the NHS has announced 477 deaths in London hospitals following a positive test for Covid-19.

The 7,034 people currently in hospital with Covid-19 represents a 35 per cent increase compared to the peak of the pandemic in April. There are currently around 830 admissions to London hospital trusts per day – up from around 500 before Christmas – which could rise further over the next two weeks. 

The impact is also being felt right across the emergency services with hundreds of firefighters from London Fire Brigade once again assisting London Ambulance Service by volunteering to drive ambulances as the ambulance services faces one of the busiest times in its history. Since volunteering to help in April last year, firefighters have now responded to 100,000 incidents whilst driving ambulances.

The London Ambulance Service is now taking up to 8,000 emergency calls a day now, compared to 5,500 on a typical busy day.

A major incident is defined as being “beyond the scope of business-as-usual operations, and is likely to involve serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security”.  In addition, “the severity of the consequences associated with a major incident are likely to constrain or complicate the ability of responders to resource and manage the incident.”

The Mayor re-established a Strategic Coordinating Group in September as the spread of the virus increased.  He has now taken this further step as the increased pressures on responders, combined with the impact of increasing numbers of their staff being ill or having to self-isolate, means that the existing coordination arrangements need to be further stepped-up.

The Mayor has written to the Prime Minister with asks from City Hall and London Councils leaders for greater financial support for Londoners who need to self-isolate and are not able to work, daily vaccination data, the closure of places of worship and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in supermarket queues and other places outside that may be crowded.

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Sutton Council leader message to all residents – stay at home unless for essential reasons

Leader of Sutton Council Councillor Ruth Dombey’s Leader of Sutton Council column from Sutton Scene newsletter, Friday 8 January.

It’s the beginning of a New Year and I wish it were a happier time for all of us. But we are now in another national lockdown and we must all stay at home unless for essential reasons like food, medical care, or because we can’t work from home.

It’s difficult and frustrating for everyone and we’re all desperate for the vaccine to be widely distributed. Our local GPs are working hard to ensure that the priority groups receive the vaccine as soon as possible. The vaccine will be offered more widely when this is complete. The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have the vaccine. It’s important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then to help reduce the pressure they are under currently.

In the meantime, this new variant of the virus is spreading quickly across our borough and our city so we need to pull together as a caring community to protect our loved ones, our neighbours and our brave NHS staff.

All the staff at St Helier Hospital are working flat out but the number of COVID-19 patients is rising very fast. We all need to think about our personal actions and how we can help to reduce the rate of transmission of the virus so that our doctors and nurses can focus on helping those people in need of the most urgent medical care.

Many thousands of residents have booked themselves in for a test at one of our local test centres. You can book a slot if you are showing symptoms or without any symptoms.

If you do need to leave your homes, please make sure you wear a mask in shops, public transport and enclosed spaces. By wearing a face covering, you are helping to protect yourselves and also the most vulnerable people in our community. Do wash your hands often and always respect the social-distancing rules.

I know this is very difficult for everyone. Whether or not you, or someone you know, has caught the virus, it is having an impact on every single person. Every business and every job is affected in one way or another. Every school child or student and their families are having to adapt. Every front-line worker is worried about their safety.

The community in Sutton has risen to the challenge over the last nine months and we need to do so again now. If you are concerned about your own situation or that of a friend, neighbour or relative, there is support available so please do ask for help if you need it via the Council website.

I know we will get through this together. The care and compassion being shown by so many people towards others in Sutton is uplifting and fills us with hope for the future. Thank you to everyone who is giving up their time to help those who need extra support.

There will be better days ahead.

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Firefighters drafted in to drive ambulances as infection rates sharply rise

London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe says drafting 185 firefighters to drive ambulances shows the Brigade continues to be ready, willing and able to do everything possible to combat Covid-19. 

London firefighters have once again stepped up to assist London Ambulance Service (LAS) to boost their emergency response as Covid-19 infection rates have sharply increased in the capital. Today 125 firefighters are helping the LAS with a further 60 set to be trained and dispatched next week.

An arrangement was originally put in place in April 2020, since then firefighters have now responded to 100,000 incidents whilst driving ambulances with the LAS. 

The most recent arrangement, put in place over Christmas, has seen over 100 firefighters volunteer to drive ambulances as LAS face one of the busiest times in their history. Fire crews are assisting paramedics get urgent treatment to Londoners just like they did during the height of the first phase of the pandemic. 

Just like the joint collaboration in April, this extra support has been agreed nationally between the National Employers, National Fire Chiefs Council and the Fire Brigades Union and recognises the need to support local authorities and the NHS, including ambulance services.  

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

“On behalf of all Londoners, I want to thank our hardworking firefighters for continuing to work tirelessly during the pandemic to keep Londoners safe. We are incredibly grateful to those from the London Fire Brigade who have volunteered to drive ambulances with the London Ambulance Service.

“The situation with the virus in London is extremely serious. In the midst of the biggest public health crisis we have seen in our lifetime, the Brigade has stepped up to support our blue light services when they are under immense pressure. Our firefighters have shown once again that our frontline heroes are the very best of us.”

London Fire Brigade Commissioner Andy Roe said: 

“We’re ready, willing and able to support the national fight in combating Covid-19. At this crucial stage in the pandemic firefighters have once again volunteered to step up to support a joint emergency response to Covid-19. The arrangement will help keep ambulances on the road and get vital care to those who most need it. 

“It makes me very proud to see so many firefighters eager to step up and volunteer at such a challenging time. Since April 100,000 incidents got an ambulance sooner because we’ve been assisting the London Ambulance Service.” 

Having been trained by London Ambulance Service clinicians in basic life-saving skills as part of the training programme all firefighters receive and already holding qualifications to drive emergency vehicles on blue lights, each London firefighter who has volunteered to help us will be trained and ready to support our skilled paramedics on the road in a day. 

To be eligible, London Fire Brigade volunteers will hold the following qualifications: 

Emergency Fire Appliance Driver (EFAD) 

Immediate Emergency Care (IEC) 

Tasks firefighters may well undertake whilst volunteering include using their blue light driving experience to help drive ambulances alongside paramedics or using their existing first aid skills to help administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and a use a defibrillator when responding to patients in cardiac arrest. 

While carrying out their duties, firefighters will wear their LFB workwear and be provided with additional personal protective equipment, including face masks, gloves and eye protection. 

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MP joins caucus to champion to drive green agenda in Westminster

Elliot Colburn MP has become a member of the Conservative Environment Network’s (CEN) Parliamentary Caucus to champion action on decarbonisation and conservation in Westminster.

The Caucus works together to drive the green agenda in Westminster, underpinned by a set of principles that include action on climate change, enhancing the natural environment, preserving species and oceans, and tackling air pollution.

Elliot will work with other Conservative backbench MPs to nudge Government policy in a greener direction.

Elliot has long campaigned on environmental issues, including holding Sutton Council to account over their Beddington Incinerator and pressing for improvements to air quality monitoring near the site. As part of this Caucus, Elliot will now work with like-minded Conservatives to promote this agenda in Parliament – including through the debate he has secured in Parliament next Tuesday on waste incineration and recycling rates – and to ensure a green recovery from coronavirus.

Elliot said:

“I am delighted to have joined the Conservative Environment Network to promote and champion the issues that my constituents care about.

“I have frequently raised concerns in Parliament about the Beddington Incinerator – which can be seen from many points across Carshalton and Wallington – and I want to see more air quality monitoring stations put in place so that residents can access independently gathered, real-time data about the air that they are breathing.

“Everyone deserves cleaner air and water, sustainable and healthy food to eat, and access to green space; the Conservatives are clear we should be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.”

As part of his work with the Caucus, Elliot supports action to meet the UK’s ambitious net zero emissions target, which will end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.

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BEWARE of fake NHS looking text which tells people to apply for COVID-19 vaccine

A dangerous fake NHS-looking text has been circulating, telling people they’re eligible to apply for the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s very authentic looking and convincing, using NHS lettering, colours and logo. As with all scams, it intends to trick people into disclosing personal information such as bank or credit card details, address and ID. Do not press any buttons on the text or click any links.

Cold calls regarding the vaccine are also beginning to take place – there’s already reports of scammers asking people to pay for it over the phone. If you receive one of these calls, hang up immediately.

You do not need to ‘apply’ to get the vaccine. The NHS will contact you when it’s your turn to receive it, usually via your GP. Wait for your appointment communication.

Click here to read more in order to protect yourself from fraudsters using the pandemic to steal information. You can (and, really should) report scams to the Police here
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Met announces stricter Covid enforcement approach

Londoners breaching Covid legislation are increasingly likely to face fines as the new national lockdown comes into force today.

Although officers will still apply the 4 E’s approach of engaging, explaining, and encouraging – only then enforcing, the Met has issued refreshed instructions to officers to issue fines more quickly to anyone committing obvious, wilful and serious breaches.

In practice this will mean that all those attending parties, unlicensed music events or large illegal gatherings, can expect to be fined – not just the organisers of such events. Similarly, those not wearing masks where they should be and without good reason can expect to be fined – not reasoned with.

Additionally, with fewer “reasonable excuses” for people to be away from their home in the regulations, Londoners can expect officers to be more inquisitive as to why they see them out and about. Where officers identify people without a lawful reason to be away from home they can expect officers to move more quickly to enforcement.

Local officers will also be working with Council colleagues across the Capital in a partnership approach to help ensure businesses and people using public spaces such as parks or the retail spaces still open are following the rules.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the Met’s response to the Covid pandemic, said: “After ten months of this pandemic the number of people who are genuinely not aware of the restrictions and the reasons they are in place is vanishingly small.


“We know the overwhelming majority of Londoners will do the right thing by staying at home, wearing masks and not gathering, but a small minority continue to ignore rules put in place to protect the NHS and save lives.


“Our first duty as police officers is to preserve life. The critical situation our NHS colleagues are facing and the way the new virus variant moves through communities, means we can no longer spend our time explaining or encouraging people to follow rules where they are wilfully and dangerously breaching.


“Less than a month ago we launched a new digital fines system which makes it quicker and easier for officers to issue fines on the spot. Since its launch more people have been reported for fines than in the rest of the year combined; this is also an indicator of a worsening position in the epidemic, and officers stepping in more quickly to try to keep communities safe.


“I hope it is not necessary for this particular trend to carry on but if people continue to break the rules, putting themselves, their families and their communities at greater risk, our officers are ready to act robustly.


“This is why Londoners must take action now to stop this virus spreading further across our city. Action now by everyone will help reduce the time our Capital must live with these restrictions and crucially, will prevent more people from dying needlessly because of this virus. It’s up to us all to do the right thing.”

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Sutton Council tenants to get water charges refund

Following a recent Court of Appeal judgement, some Sutton Council tenants will get a refund of the commission paid by water companies to the Council for collecting water and sewage charges.

“Following a recent Court of Appeal judgement, some Sutton Council tenants will get a refund of the commission paid by water companies to the Council for collecting water and sewage charges prior to 2018,” said a spokesperson

“The Court of Appeal case didn’t relate to Sutton, but the Council along with many others across the country, has decided to pay the refund in light of this decision. 

“The amount refunded will depend on how long someone has been a Council tenant. It will only apply to people who were tenants before April 2018 and the refund will be based on the amount the Council was paid by the water companies for collecting the charges on their behalf. 

  • I am a Sutton Council tenant – what does this mean for me?

You don’t need to do anything. If you are entitled to a refund, Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) will write to you by the end of January 2021. We will also credit your rent account with the amount you are being refunded. 

“We are currently unable to tell you the amount of the refund you will receive. We are calculating these figures and will let you have the amount of refund due to you when we write to you again in January. 

  • I used to be a Sutton Council tenant – can I get a refund?

“If you were a Council tenant before 2018, but are not a council tenant any more, you may still be entitled to a refund. SHP will publish details in January for how you can make a claim for a refund.”

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Community testing now available in Sutton – even if you don’t have symptoms

Members of the public who want a test but don’t have any coronavirus symptoms can now book a rapid test at Hill House (Bishopsford Road, St.Helier).

The tests give a result within 30 minutes and are designed to identify people who are asymptomatic (not showing any symptoms), who might unknowingly be carrying and spreading coronavirus. 

You can book an appointment here. You should not book more than two tests a week.

These rapid tests are specifically for Sutton residents who do not have any symptoms. If you have symptoms you should book a test by visiting nhs.uk/coronavirus or calling 119. 

The new rapid testing centre at Hill House will help to reduce the spread of the virus in Sutton. With the phased rollout of the coronavirus vaccine and the public health measures we must all follow, it will help us find a route out of this challenging period. 

In the meantime, it is vital that we all continue to: wash our hands more often and for longer; maintain a safe distance from others; and use face coverings when in indoor public spaces or when unable to maintain a safe distance from other people you do not live with. 

It is important to note that if:

  • as a result of the rapid test you test positive, you must self-isolate and arrange a second test by calling 119 or via nhs.uk/coronavirus. This test will confirm conclusively that you have the virus.
  • this result is also confirmed as positive, you will then be asked to provide details of those you have been in close contact with. 
  • If you test negative, you can continue as before by following all national and regional guidance. 

The tests can only look for the virus at the time you have your test. It is therefore essential that even if you test negative, you continue to observe the national COVID-19 restrictions. 

More information can be found on the government website.