As COVID vaccinations begin, Basildon Council leader warns of risk town could be put into Tier 3

From today (Tuesday December 8), Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust began offering vaccinations against COVID-19 at Basildon Hospital as part of the NHS vaccination programme involving 50 hubs across the country.

The first group of people who are eligible for the vaccine are those aged 80 or over.

Leader of Basildon Council, Councillor Gavin Callaghan, said: “I was heartened today to see the first person to get the COVID vaccine at Basildon Hospital is a war veteran. Protecting our older residents and those who are vulnerable to the virus because of existing health conditions has always been and will continue to be a priority.

“We can’t and shouldn’t forget that we have a long way to go. We are at a critical time for our borough, our coronavirus rates are rising, our figures put us in the top 10 areas in the country and we are facing the real possibility of being put into Tier 3 restrictions which would hit our hospitality and leisure businesses at a time they are already facing financial hardship.

“Our actions now really can change that forecast. I know it has been hard this year, to miss out on regular contact with loved ones, our friends and all the things we probably took for granted before coronavirus. But, please, keep to the rules of minimising your social contact, socially distance from those you don’t live with, work from home if you can, wear a face covering where required and keep your hands clean.”

Cllr Callaghan has also welcomed Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) for Basildon residents but says it could have been done sooner and we now need to focus on closing schools early for Christmas to stop the spread of the virus.

Cllr Callaghan said: “We agreed to enter into Tier 2 early on the proviso that we would be the first for the lateral flow tests, which give results in around 30 minutes. We have been ready to get the ball rolling since 15 October, so it is hard to understand why the Government and Essex County Council have taken almost two months to get their house in order.

“The ECC and government delays, has put Basildon in a precarious position with our infection rate now rising to one of the highest in the country. This never needed to happen.

“It is imperative now that ECC and partners really listen to Basildon Council and up the pace of their response to this growing issue in the borough. And not just on testing.

“Schools must also be prioritised in the response. It is imperative that schools now close early for Christmas as cases continue to rise among the young and teaching staff, at alarming rates. We must end the confusion and chaotic approach to this across the borough.

“We need to stop this age group from mixing and this needs to happen at least two weeks before Christmas when families, including elderly relatives, will be sitting down together for their Christmas dinner.

“No one wants further restrictions imposed on us but that is a very real possibility if we don’t all continue to play our part now.”

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]