The Covid-19 pandemic has meant making difficult decisions to protect the health and wellbeing of the population, and this clearly has meant the Government having to make a number of decisions that impact on everyday life, creating rules that we should all do our best to follow.
Like many, I am yet to be convinced that a second national lockdown would have a positive and effective impact in stopping the virus and believe instead that it would have a number of wide-ranging negative impacts on the population. I agree with the concept of tiered, specific responses to local Covid-19 outbreaks, which make sense in those populations that have a high prevalence of the disease. However, this is simply not the case in Teignbridge, Devon, the South West or other swathes of the country where our rates are low, and our hospitals are relatively quiet.
In the meantime, people with other health conditions are unable to access treatment and operations are being 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. The reality is that the non-Covid health impact will far outweigh that of Covid itself.
Furthermore, the evidence shows that the South West has been and will be the hardest hit economically by Covid-19 due to our focus on not only tourism and hospitality but also our large number of small and medium sized businesses. Our businesses have already taken a massive kicking and it would be utterly irresponsible to let this happen again. Put another way – businesses in Devon cannot afford a second lockdown.
If we are to be forced into a second lockdown then the Government needs to be putting in place a range of measures (most of which should have already happened).
This means putting in place measures to mitigate the financial hit that most businesses will once again have to endure. In practice, this should mean providing further business support grants to enable local businesses to keep trading. An enforced lack of customers and businesses isn’t their fault and shouldn’t be treated as such. We should continue the business rates holiday.
We righty talk about entrepreneurial spirit and how the UK is a fantastic place to start a business but small and medium sized businesses, especially those where the owner is a director of the company or self-employed have fallen through the gap throughout this pandemic. Many businesses have been excluded from support so far, and a second lockdown will simply be the killer blow for many of them. We need support for the self-employed, directors who are paid through dividends and others who have lost out.
If we are to lockdown again, we need to see far greater control given to local authorities and the money to actually provide the support that the community needs. Local authorities know their local communities and are best placed to support them. Government needs to trust that they are best placed to do this and actually provide clear and understandable guidance. We have the utterly ludicrous situation currently whereby local authorities were unable to pay-out Test and Trace support payments because they don’t have access to the NHS system in order to verify the claimant. It’s needless complications such as this that can have a massive impact on the lives of those who need the payments.
Furthermore, I am disappointed that the Government has refused to extend Free School Meals to those who need them over the forthcoming school holidays. If parents find themselves in a position where their working situation and incomes means they are unable to feed their children, then it seems logical that the Government extends the Free School Meals which are already been supplied during term time to the holidays as well.
I completely understand that the point of a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown is to slow the rate of disease transmission down and to provide breathing space for the healthcare system. This absolutely makes sense in a community which is being overwhelmed by the disease. The question though remains, what happens if nothing has been improved at the end of that 2 weeks? Do you lockdown for a further two weeks and then another and then another? Not only is this not practical, it isn’t fair.
Areas such as Teignbridge are not being overwhelmed by the disease, and there are few Covid hospital cases. Instead our businesses are being overwhelmed by the impact that shutting down the economy inevitable has on them and individuals with other health conditions are being overwhelmed by a lack of access to treatment.
I simply cannot support a situation whereby the cure is worse than the original illness.
Finally, I very much welcome the fact that Network Rail has taken what the local community has said during the recent consultation period seriously and has put the project on hold in order to refine the plans. Whilst the resilience works are a vital and necessary step for both the local community and the wider South West economy, it is absolutely correct that this is done with local consultation and engagement.
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