Readers of the Echo will be aware that the situation in Gloucestershire’s hospitals is serious. Earlier this week, the number of COVID-positive patients in Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal was 25% higher than at the spring peak. Trust managers are scoping mutual aid from other hospitals, and staff are under intense pressure.
Clinicians are straining every sinew to keep planned, non-COVID, treatments going – including crucial cancer care at CGH. I don’t want to be alarmist, because it’s crucial that those who need hospital care continue to go there to get it. But make no mistake, health systems are running very hot across our country, and Cheltenham is no exception.
That’s why I urge local people to proceed with caution this Christmas. Families will have made plans, bought train tickets and looked forward to seeing loved ones again – including some who may have been isolated for many months. Some may feel they don’t have unlimited further Christmas gatherings left to enjoy.
So I can understand the wish not to mess people around at the last minute.
But there’s no escaping the fact that this is a risky moment. If we are going to avoid a painful January for our whole community, it’s essential that we all exercise now our collective common sense and restraint. That means treating the three-household rule as a limit, not a target. Just because people can meet relatively large groups doesn’t mean that they should. And those planning to meet up can reduce the risk by limiting their movements in the period beforehand.
The people of Cheltenham, through GCHQ and extraordinary sacrifice through conflict, have protected others in our nation from threats. Now, in December 2020, we must not neglect to protect ourselves. How we respond today will determine what happens on our wards and in our emergency departments in January and the health of our friends and neighbours.
Thank you for your extraordinary forbearance this Christmas.