Lockdown? What lockdown? Leading politician airs concerns as Brighton remains busy

Councillor Nancy Platts

A leading politician has questioned whether people were taking the latest lockdown seriously or just carrying on as normal.

The former Labour council leader Nancy Platts said that the more virulent strain of the coronavirus and higher infection levels meant that the situation was more serious than in March.

But she contrasted the levels of traffic on the roads then and now as public health chiefs and fellow leading councillors echoed the government’s message to “stay home”.

The opposition leader told a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting: “The day after the first lockdown the city went quiet. You could hear birds singing. There was no traffic.

“The day after the national lockdown this time, I went down towards the seafront and the roads were like the rush hour as normal.

“There were lots of people about. It is coming across to me as if people are not seeing this in quite the same way as the March lockdown.”

She asked a virtual meeting of the council’s Policy and Resources (Recovery) Sub-Committee what councillors could do to ensure that people were aware that the situation was more serious than in March.

Councillor Platts added: “It strikes me that people are carrying on as normal right now. People have almost got into a new routine and are just carrying on.

“I’m not sure where people are going in their cars but it is really busy out there.”

The council’s executive director for health and adult social care Rob Persey said that more accurate testing had helped to provide a better picture of the situation.

He said: “It is, undeniably, incredibly important that we take this lockdown really seriously and it should feel more like the March/April lockdown than the November lockdown.

“We need to stress that point.”

The A27 Brighton bypass was empty at times during the coronavirus lockdown in the spring of 2020

Mr Persey said that the infection rate at the start of the week was 550 per 100,000 people in Brighton and Hove, or about 1 in 45. He said that the rate had since risen to 650 per 100,000.

He added that the region was not in crisis at the moment but the health and emergency services were coming together to prepare in case the situation worsened so that they could reduce pressure on the NHS.

In the spring the number of care homes with covid-19 infections at any one time could be counted on one hand, he said.

But yesterday (Tuesday 5 January) 18 care homes in Brighton and Hove were closed to new admissions for 28 days because of coronavirus outbreaks.

Mr Persey said: “The scale of it in this current wave is much more significant than in the first wave.

“We need to be working together in a state of preparedness with a variety of plan Bs to ensure we can support the city and the safety of the people in the city as much as possible over the next few weeks and months which will be challenging.”

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

And council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty warned people that they faced the hardest weeks yet since the pandemic began.

The Green councillor said that the new covid strain was of “really serious concern” during the meeting this afternoon (Wednesday 6 January).

He said that the evolved version of the virus was 70 per cent more transmissible and, as of Tuesday 29 December, the infection rate for Brighton and Hove was 700 per cent higher than when the November lockdown ended.

Councillor Mac Cafferty said: “That sharp increase in cases is sadly continuing. We have moved as a council quickly to understand the impact of the new strain.

“As a council we will continue to support residents, especially those who are more vulnerable, those in business and those in education, as we have done since the start.”

The meeting was told that the council was in the process of closing outdoor sports courts and skate parks and in public spaces the council was refreshing its signs to remind people to keep two metres apart.

A recent picture of the A270 Old Shoreham Road in Hove

New banners would be put in place where they are not at risk from damage from the weather and new markers stencilled onto the lower promenade.

Councillor Mac Cafferty said: “Given some concerns about crowds at the seafront, I also want to remind residents of the many wonderful open spaces and parks across our city, available for exercise near people’s homes.”

As well as the existing covid-19 marshals, a further four marshals would be employed to patrol the seafront to support the police and provide advice to people on following social distancing guidance.

But it remained the police, not marshals, who would be responsible for enforcing the national lockdown.

Councillor Mac Cafferty said that the council was supporting the NHS with the covid-19 vaccination programme.

He said: “There is no one action that will be delivered across our population in time to fully put a stop to the scale of the crisis we face in the here and now.

“We have to think of the most vulnerable so we have to stay at home and only leave home for the reasons allowed.

“These coming weeks will be the hardest we’ve faced yet as we fight the more contagious B117 strain of the virus that is spreading fast.

“And I know we are all determined to support our communities as we have done throughout.”

  1. Peter Challis Reply

    I thought Nancy and Phelim were councillors representing the electorate rather than politicians – silly me.

    And how can Nancy be classed as leader of the opposition when she and Phelim agree policies behind closed doors, and then support each other in committees as part of the secret deal they agreed.

    The “opposition” are residents, businesses, Conservative and Independent councillors who are ignored by Phelim and Nancy.

  2. Chris Reply

    It’s not surprising the Old Shoreham Road look jammed, there’s only one lane because of the pop-up (temporary!!!) cycle lane and some people still need to get to work, go shopping or go to a doctor’s appointment.

    • Hove Guy Reply

      And the same goes for the seafront, which has two cycle lanes on one side in Hove, while the traffic is squeezed into one narrow lane. But common sense is in very short supply when it comes to the Greens and Labour members of the council. They will go to any extreme to keep vehicles out of Brighton and Hove.

  3. CT Reply

    it is not about who is in opposition. They are both concerned about the situation – which is dire.
    And people still had to shop and go to the GP and some to work in March. Yet is is very busy now. And this new strain is spreading faster. We are sleep-walking into very dangerous waters.

    • Peter Challis Reply

      My point is that I don’t really care what local “politicians” think on the subject. Other local authorities send out simple summaries of the situation with recommendations of what to do based upon governmental statements, and issue them anonymously from the council itself.

      I don’t need, or value, what Phelim or Nancy think about the situation being politically motivated animals wanting to justify their positions. I’m more interested as to what Rob Persey, Public Health England, the NHS, and the Clinical Commissioning Groups have to say.

  4. Greens Out Reply

    Misleading article.

    Where’s the comment from the leading politician?

  5. Paul Temple Reply

    Great to see photographic evidence that the OSR is congested – thanks to the unused cycle lane, (although we are told the traffic is not worse). If there is more traffic it’s because those that would have used a bus, (and cycling is not a viable means), will now almost certainly use the car. Buses felt relatively safe last lockdown but this new highly transmissable virus means that most will avoid at all costs. Plus if you supposed to shop once a week a car might be a necessity for transport of the weekly shop for some families.

    • Fleur Baladine Reply

      Really good points. I hope the council removes the cycle lanes soon.

  6. Bear Road resident Reply

    Is this the same Nancy Platt who welcomed a mass BLM rally (many unmasked and nearly all not socially distancing)onto the level during the last lockdown – what a hypocrite!!!

  7. Greens Out Reply

    So where’s the comment from a ‘leading politician’?

  8. Billy Short Reply

    Our politicians have really set themselves up for a fall here.

    If we put the country in lockdown and close the schools then it’s no surprise that people take their allowed exercise – rather than keep their kids cooped up inside all day.
    So it’s understandable that the seafront and our parks are busy. These are all the people who in another time would have been inside the shops, or offices or the schools. It’s so important with this virus not to start blaming victims or those of us trying to stick to the rules.

    I happen to live on Hove seafront so I take my walks or I cycle there, as exercise. It’s busy in good weather and at weekends, and quieter on the cold or wet or windy days. Those numbers seen have nothing to do with people not caring about Covid-19 transmission.
    Putting up more banners will make no difference.
    (My only wish is that more people would wear masks – and it is very annoying when joggers brush past you when you are trying to maintain distance from others. )

    I can also tell you that the cycle lanes have been empty for weeks, since the weather changed. The extra cycle lane is little used, and was unnecessary when we have the one on the promenade/pavement which most cyclists seem to prefer to use. The money wasted on the new cycle lane could so easily have been spent on resurfacing and widening the original one.

    If the seafront road seems busy then that’s because the new cycle lanes have created an endless tailback of single file traffic when the same traffic flowed much more freely before. Some people still need to commute to work or to use this sole remaining cross city route for essential journeys – and it’s time our council acknowledged the recent acts of self harm to our transport infrastructure.

    This article mentions leadership and I suggest our councillors get out of their self-congratulatory zoom bubbles and undemocratic alliances and instead take a walk in the outside world to see the chaos they have created so far.

    And instead of closing more roads and sticking up more pointless signage they should look ahead to the summer by which time, hopefully, we’ll need measures in place to welcome back visitors and to kick start the local tourist and event economy.

  9. Gill Wales Reply

    The law says people can leave home to take exercise outdoors. The only restrictions are that they should only do it once a day and in their local area. From Black Rock to Old Steine, and from Regency Square to Boundary Road, the seafront is almost entirely residential. So, for the many thousands of people in Kemp Town and Hove who live on the seafront or in the streets leading off it, the seafront IS the nearest open space to their homes. Going to a park instead means travelling into the suburbs.

  10. Justin Quick Reply

    My only gripe is the endless amount & unnessacary cafes & coffee bars that are open.During the 1st lockdown there was nothing open.Now at the most critical point ever with more deaths & cases than ever we have every Cafe & food shop open where people congregate & drink tea & coffee spreading the disease.none of these are essential.we can eat & drink at home like we did during the 1st lockdown.I live in Portslade.Boundary road is only a couple of hundred yards long & yet is overflowing with non essential cafes,Gregg’s,subway,fish & chip shops,KFC & pizza places that are just a haven for people to meet & the disease to spread.This is no doubt going on in every high street somewhere.lets get back to the 1st lockdown rules & stop this awful disease spreading.

    • bill Reply

      totally agree it’s ridiculous. Basically until there’s a new variant that affects everyone equally (which there probably will be), most people who think they are unaffected will not care about anyone else.

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