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City MP demands Health Secretary acts to protect Portsmouth as new Coronavirus variant spreads

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock with four practical steps to tackle the more virulent strain of coronavirus in the city.

The call came as Portsmouth was placed into the new Tier 4 measures on Sunday, just hours after stronger Tier 3 measures had taken effect. This was done without prior consultation with local stakeholders.

The Portsmouth South representative outlined a series of measures the city now needs, to combat the new strain of the virus, prevent frontline NHS services from being overwhelmed and support struggling local firms.

They are:

Data transparency and testing

The letter reads:

“Government must urgently publish any data it has about the threat posed to Portsmouth by the new variant of Coronavirus and undertake more sophisticated testing to track its spread within the community.”

Currently, just 5% of testing swabs undergo the genomic sequencing needed to identify the new strain.

“What are plans for mass testing in Portsmouth?” Mr Morgan writes.

Support for frontline healthcare settings

The letter reads:

“Queen Alexandra (QA) Hospital in Cosham is seeing a fresh spike of cases in recent weeks. Please urgently consider what further targeted support can be provided to frontline healthcare services in Portsmouth to prevent them becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks, and ensure that supplies are not rationed.”

Vaccine rollout

The letter reads:

“I am proud to say QA was one of the first hospitals to begin inoculating patients, but that will not be enough. I understand there are plans to establish a regional hub to serve Portsmouth, but that the commencement date has been pushed back. I strongly urge you to keep the original date of 4 January and ensure that all Tier 4 areas are prioritised for vaccine hubs.”

Support to struggling small businesses

The letter reads:

“Many shops, leisure and beauty businesses in my constituency just getting back on their feet have had the rug pulled from under them, joining struggling restaurants and pubs already shut. Portsmouth businesses are doing the right thing and closing to keep people safe, but Government cannot keep leaving businesses in the lurch.”

This continues the local MP’s efforts to lobby the Treasury for improved support for local businesses.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“With infections rising and our city in Tier 4, we are at an important moment in our battle against Coronavirus. It’s essential that we have the data and vaccination infrastructure necessary to combat the spread, as well as further financial support for our local traders, who will now miss out on vital Christmas revenue.

“Time is of the essence and we cannot be caught on the backfoot again. I am urging the Health Secretary to act with the speed demanded by the scale of the challenge we now face”.

The latest intervention follows a series of parliamentary questions, briefings and meetings since the Government’s announcement of Portsmouth moving up the tiered system.