On Saturday evening, the Prime Minister announced a second national lockdown, effective from 00:01 on Thursday 5th November until Wednesday 2nd December. 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.
Whilst I fully understand the desire to get spread of disease under control, the Government is yet to offer any kind of roadmap as to how we get out of this situation or provide any substantial (and needed) analysis of the impact that a second national lockdown will have on the non-Covid related health conditions. My worry is that a lockdown strategy is based on the assumption that a vaccine is just around the corner. Something of which there is currently no concrete evidence. Having a continuous rolling lockdown without an ending in sight will cause more harm than good longer term.
If we end up in a situation similar to the first lockdown, people with other health conditions will be unable to access treatment and operations will be 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.
The other problem we have in the South West is that the Exeter Nightingale isn’t being used for the purpose it was created; a dedicated site to deal with Covid patients. Instead, we have ended up with a situation whereby numerous beds at our District General Hospitals are unable to be used because Covid positive patients are being brought in and then it is spreading across the wards and the operating theatres at Torbay are sitting there unused. If this is an issue of staffing resource, then there is absolutely no reason why NHS Devon shouldn’t carry on the previous method of recruiting former staff again temporarily.
We also currently have the situation where medical staff are being told to isolate for 14 days despite testing negative and showing no signs of symptoms. Why not introduce daily testing in order to get the professionals back onto the wards as soon as possible? In the complete opposite of this, care home residents who end up in hospital are being discharged straight back into care homes after a single Covid test. Exactly the type of situation that caused mass breakouts in care homes the first time around.
As I have said previously, 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 without increased levels of support.
This means putting in place measures to mitigate the financial hit that most businesses will once again have to endure. I very much welcome the re-introduction of 80% furlough scheme but am concerned that a number of people will have already been made redundant given the previous scheme ended on Saturday. In practice, further measures 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.
Fundamentally, we are where we are, and now it is vital that we are able to support those across the community who need help. Things will get worse before they get better, and it is critical that we all continue to support each other, as has been the case so far this year.
As always, If you have any issues you would like me to look into then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . As with the original lockdown, please bear with me and my team as we deal with the inevitable increase in constituents getting in touch. Please remember that we don’t respond to queries/casework via social media. Please email me on the above email address and include your full name and address.