This evening, the Prime Minister announced a further 4-week extension to the current lockdown meaning that Monday 21st June now becomes 19th July. Like many of you, I am very much against this decision and am worried about a further delay post the 19th.
We, quite rightly, understand that the reality is that we will have to live with Covid-19 in various forms and any attempt at a ‘zero Covid’ strategy is both impossible and unworkable. Despite this, the Government appears to be determined to pursue a lockdown policy that is likely to drag on for the foreseeable future. After all, what happens if 4 weeks becomes another extension and then another extension, just because another variant has flared up? We cannot afford to keep running scared from these variants, we need to manage them when they inevitably arrive.
We’re told that, quite rightly, vaccinations are the answer to the problems we face, and that the extra month will allow time to get more people double vaccinated. That’s great but the way we do that is by speeding up the vaccination process. Currently, the UK is ranked 24 out of 37 OECD countries when it comes to our daily vaccination rate.
If this slowdown is due to a lack of supply, then the Government needs to be honest about this but if it is not then why aren’t we speeding up the process? Another solution would be to reduce the time between doses to at least 8 weeks and perhaps the 3 or 4 weeks (depending on vaccine) that is currently being used in the USA. As we saw when the booking process was opened to the 25 and overs, there isn’t a swell of vaccine hesitancy from people – they want the jab. Let’s utilise this and speed the process up!
One of my biggest concerns throughout the pandemic has been the number of people with other health conditions that have been unable to access treatment or had operations delayed. In delaying treatments, we are causing longer lasting problems for the NHS and the health of the population. Cancers that would usually be detected earlier are being diagnosed later, a reduction in postnatal support is having an impact on new parents and babies and mental health support has been impacted at a time when it is perhaps needed more than ever.
One shining light through all of this has been the stunning resilience shown by our communities across the patch and the sheer amount of community support that we have seen. This isn’t anything new, various fantastic community initiatives have been in place for years, but the last 18 months has shown that when we’re facing challenging times (be it individually or as a group) the community is ready to step up and support each other. This was very much evident when I spent time in Teignmouth and Dawlish talking to the Town Councils, Traders Associations and local businesses last week. Whilst some new businesses have sprung up during the pandemic, which is fantastic, it has also been great to see many existing businesses able to adapt their offering in order to continue training.
In some cases, the resilience displayed has been despite the complete lack of Government support for businesses, purely because they happen to be operated in a certain way, such as a Limited Company. If we are to continue to be locked down for another month then the Government must put in place a support package to a) help those who still cannot re-open and b) those who have received no support for the last 18 months. I met one business last week who was a ltd company so couldn’t claim the grants and couldn’t close (and claim the closure grant or Universal Credit) because they needed to keep the business open for the future bookings. HM Treasury should offer this type of business a one-off £10k grant which would replicate the support given to other businesses previously.
For the reasons I have outlined above, I cannot in good faith support the extension of lockdown by a further month. Despite this, the Government clearly has a majority to do so, therefore it’s going to happen. In that case, I would call on the Government to publish the data justifying its decision and also provide financial support for those they have excluded for the past 18 months.
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