Yesterday’s address by the Prime Minister was confusing. What the nation was looking for was clarity and consensus. The statement raises more questions than answers.
For example, what safety provisions are businesses meant to put in place and by when?
How are police meant to enforce these provisions where people are being given unclear advice?
Will the Government be publishing the medical and scientific advice that has informed these decisions?
This was not helped this morning by Dominic Raab on BBC Radio Four who seemed as confused by the detail of the announcement as the rest of us.
The Government have just released their guidance and I will be going through that to provide better information in time for tomorrow’s update. I worry about the great many of my constituents who will now be asked to return to work in potentially unsafe environments.
Cases and Mortality
As of 9am on the 6 May the Government has tested 1,072,144 people, of whom 201,101 tested positive. As of 5pm on 5 May, of those who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the UK, across all settings, 30,076 have died – an increase of 649. But indicators suggest the numbers of deaths and infections continue to remain on a downward trend. Locally, as at 6pm on 6 May the number of confirmed cases within Leeds stood at 1,555, with 21 new cases yesterday. The total number of reported deaths of people who tested positive with COVID-19 in Leeds hospitals up to 5pm 6 May is 265.Please note that all hospital deaths are confirmed by testing but not all community and care home deaths will have had a confirmatory test. Of the 483 covid-19 related deaths registered so far, 471 (98%) were Leeds residents, 281 (58%) were in hospitals, 173 (36%) were in care homes and 9 (2%) in a hospice. To date, 34% of all deaths registered have been covid-19 related.Our thoughts continue to be with all those affected by this virus, particularly those grieving loved ones.
I wanted to share with you some of the positive work that has been taking place with volunteers through Voluntary Action Leeds. The work that LCC and VAL have done has been hugely positive. As well as the role of VAL, civic leadership from councillors has been important in securing the success of this volunteering up to now. Leeds has had a very diverse range of people volunteering, who have brought with them valuable language skills. Over 2,000 people have identified they can speak more than one language and a significant number are interpreters. Leeds City Council has been able to share the details of 600 verified drivers with volunteering hubs. Looking beyond the current response phase, LCC is reopening the online Volunteer Centre. In the next few weeks, we know that some people will be returning to work. We hope that the city can continue to enjoy the incredible response we’ve had to Leeds’ call for local volunteers.
I recieved the below message from Leeds City Council regarding funeral services. I am in touch regularly with funeral providers as well as the relevant council members and staff on this issue.
“One measure has been a limit on the number of mourners that are able to attend a funeral which has been set at ten for both burials and cremations. This is consistent with regulations from Public Health England which state that only members of a household should be attending a funeral or close family members and if no close family members, then a close family friend may attend. We have also had to stop services within our crematoria chapels due to the large number of cremations we are having to process at the current time which last week saw 162 in total. Over the course of the last few weeks we have seen the number of deaths in Leeds being as high as 124% higher than they were in the same week in April 2019. We have now had at least five consecutive weeks where the number of deaths has been significantly higher than the same week in 2019. To confirm this in April 2019 we had 558 deaths registered in Leeds whilst in April 2020 that figure was 1048 deaths.
With cremations taking place as frequently as every 30 minutes in some cases, but on average every 40 minutes, it is not possible to provide a deep cleanse and sanitise between services that would be necessary to provide a safe environment in accordance with Public Health England requirements. Opening up the chapel areas would also entail the consideration of opening up other areas such as the music, waiting, vestry rooms and toilets, all of which would also require a deep cleanse and sanitisation between use.
Whilst the headlines suggest that we are over the current peak of Covid-19 deaths, the funeral process takes place over a number of weeks after death and, therefore, we are expecting high numbers for a few more weeks.
We have been working closely with funeral directors to offer other options to bereaved families including using a Funeral Director’s own chapel if they have one; making arrangements with a family’s local place of worship; or, using a different venue entirely. We are aware that some have held a service in their own homes, where the footfall is much less and the risk of infection is reduced, and some families have used sports clubs and similar function rooms in other venues to hold a service. Some families, have also decided to wait for a service until after the burial or cremation has occurred in the hope that more people will be able to attend once the restrictions have been lifted.
As we have mentioned previously, we are aware that some families may wish to attend the crematoria grounds and view the coffin being moved from the hearse into the chapel for a short period of time and mourners are invited to do so provided that, no more than ten people attend. Social distancing of two metres between people must be maintained at all times. Some families have also asked their officiant to do a short blessing outside of the crematoria chapel in view of the bereaved family rather than do it inside.
Given the above, and whilst the existing government advice remains in place and the number of cremations remains high, we will need to maintain these arrangements.
We are keen to re-introduce chapel funeral services as soon as it is safe to do so. Our decision on this will be informed by ongoing monitoring of the number of cremations we are averaging per week and when this reduces to a normal level that allows sufficient time between cremations for the necessary deep cleanse and sanitisation we will consider their safe re-introduction. ”