Statement by five Devon County Councillors calling for more assertive social distancing measures against the Coronavirus
We are gravely concerned that the people of Devon are being excessively exposed to the threat of death through the coronavirus, because the Government is failing to introduce the social distancing measures needed to contain the epidemic.
The UK has fewer hospital beds, fewer Intensive Care Unit beds and fewer specialist respiratory beds than other European countries. In Devon we have more than our fair share of the elderly population who will be especially vulnerable to the epidemic.
A Government adviser, Dr David Halpern, has suggested that we can ‘cocoon’ the vulnerable while the epidemic runs through the rest of the population. This is false, because if there is a high level of contagion, the elderly will inevitably catch the virus too, and it is NOT true that the young and fit people are safe. In Italy, people of 20, 30 and 40 are also suffering life-threatening pneumonias, and hospitals are are leaving people over 60 to die because there is not enough specialist equipment (such as ventilators) to save all the victims.
It is estimated that we have four weeks before we are in the extreme situation currently faced in Italy. As Jeremy Hunt, chair of the Health Select Committee and former Health Secretary, has suggested, we should be using this time to introduce radical social distancing measures to protect our population. These have been shown to slow down and contain the epidemic in China and South Korea and they should be used here while we have the chance.
If we can slow down the epidemic even for a few months, we have a better chance of restricting the severe cases to the numbers which the NHS can treat. Meanwhile, medical researchers may identify drugs which can help treat the worst cases, and a vaccine to protect against the virus.
Boris Johnson has said that many more families will lose loved ones. But his policy is unnecessarily condemning many people to die when the NHS becomes unable to cope. We cannot stand by and allow this to happen. Until we can vaccinate against this virus, we need to accept radical restrictions to our lives, in order to save lives. We call on our Devon MPs and Councils to press the Government to immediately change direction.
This statement is issued on behalf of County Councillors:
- Hilary Ackland (Exeter, Pinhoe and Mincinglake)
- Marina Asvachin (Exeter, Wonford and St. Loyes)
- Martin Shaw (Seaton and Colyton)
- Nick Way (Crediton)
- Claire Wright (Otter Valley)
(All members of the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, but this statement is issued in our personal capacities.)