On Monday (2 November 2020), the Prime Minister made a statement in the House of Commons announcing a second national lockdown in England.
From midnight on Weds 4th November until Wednesday 2nd December, new restrictions must be followed. These new restrictions mean:
- You must stay at home, except for specific reasons:
- For education
- For work, if you cannot work from home
- For exercise and recreation outdoors, with your household or on your own, or with one person from another household or support bubble
- For medical reasons, appointments and to escape injury and harm
- To shop for food and essentials
- And to provide care for vulnerable people, or as a volunteer
- You must avoid meeting people you do not live with, except for specific purposes.
- Certain businesses and venues will have to close, including non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues and the personal care sector, while hospitality must close except for takeaway and delivery services.
Everybody is concerned about the rise in infections, hospital admissions and – tragically – the number of deaths. People in our constituency and right across the country will be anxious about what will happen over the coming weeks; anxious about their health and the health of their friends and family, and anxious about their jobs.
That is why three weeks ago I joined with my colleagues in calling on the Government to implement a short circuit-break in England, in line with the recommendations of the Government’s scientific advisors.
I am disappointed that Ministers did not act on the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) back in September, only now to ask MPs to approve emergency regulations to shut the country down. I am concerned that the delay in introducing restrictions will come at an economic cost and a human cost, and as a result, this lockdown will be longer than it needed to be.
I supported the Coronavirus Act 2020 in response to COVID-19 and at the time I pressed for parliamentary votes to be held on the renewal or revocation of these powers at six-monthly intervals. I was pleased the legislation was amended to guarantee this. This week I voted in favour of the new regulations for a 4-week national lockdown circuit break.
I did not come into Parliament to restrict people’s freedoms, to prevent people meeting their friends and their loved ones, or to decide when people can and cannot leave their home or how many people may attend a funeral. I do not want Parliament to be closing businesses, gyms, bars or places of worship. Indeed, I do not want Parliament to be legislating on any of these issues, least of all after the British public has made enormous sacrifices already.
I am angry at the slow action, poor decision-making and overall incompetence of this Government. Responsibility for this second wave of the virus sits at their feet. They lost control of the virus, the test and trace system is broken and until a vaccine is available the test and trace system urgently needs fixing.
It is essential that Government support be provided to businesses and individuals who have been affected by the lockdown measures. The furlough scheme has been extended, the Self-Employment Income Support grant has been extended and I will continue to press the Government to ensure that my constituents do not fall through the gaps in this support.
People in Manchester Gorton and across the country will want to know that there is a plan for exiting restrictions. Ministers have so far not set out what criteria will be used to judge whether the lockdown should be lifted and I hope that they will clarify this as a matter of urgency.
More widely, I believe the Government must use this lockdown to expand testing and fix contact tracing. This should include regular testing programmes to ensure key workers and those most at risk are using new, readily available rapid turn-around tests, including those developed by UK universities.
I know these restrictions are frustrating, but we must all follow the guidelines and the law to keep ourselves, our family and our friends safe.
I recognise that the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown measures have been tough for many people. The NHS has set up a support site, Every Mind Matters for tips and advice on where to get mental health support, and I encourage any of my constituents who are struggling to please speak to a GP or friend / family member.