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Statement on decision to vote against second lockdown


4th November 2020

My decision to vote against full lockdown has not been taken lightly. Indeed, I have supported the government, albeit with increasing reluctance, on each of the previous Covid related votes.

These included measures to restrict economic activity, social distancing and the curtailing of personal liberty in ways that until recently would have been totally unimaginable to our freedom loving people.

Included in this was the “rule of six” and the “10 pm rule”, neither of which stand up to close review but where I voted to support the government plans to defeat the virus. In the same way I voted in support of the regional tier system and numerous other measures of varying effectiveness.

Here in Huntingdonshire, as of last Friday, we had very low and stable figures of 58 cases per 100,000 people which is approximately between 10 and 20 times lower than the figure required for tier 3 status. About half a dozen beds are Covid occupied in Hinchingbrooke Hospital. In effect, without lockdown we would have remained at tier 1 status. This is of great credit to the caution and sensible behaviour shown by residents locally, and also reflects the excellent local public service and council provision that I am seeing.

If I was to support further restrictions on our liberty, I would need not only more evidence of their chances of success than I have received to date, but also an understanding as to why Cambridgeshire should be treated in exactly the same way as high risk areas in the north-east and north-west.

One can find experts that have opposing views on almost every aspect of the health issues involved in the crisis. I am mindful also that medical advice that the government has accessed to date has effectively failed. There is little evidence to show that a lockdown ultimately reduces death, whether it will merely kick the can down the road and cause other health problems, whether interrupting transmission slows herd immunity, whether the lockdown causes more loss of life than it prevents; and so the unanswered questions go on.

In the meantime, I’m growing increasingly concerned at the severe mental health implications of lockdown. This impacts on all generations, with people cooped up at home, elderly unable to see family and leisure and cultural activities blocked. Sadly, one fifth of 18 to 24-year-olds furloughed have now lost their jobs. A further lockdown will inevitably accelerate this process, with a severe mental health knock-on.

One well respected local family business of some 40 years standing has just contacted me to say that they will not be able to stand a further lockdown. The majority of local businesses I speak to have made redundancies. This area has one of the highest proportions of small business ownership in the country; typically without the capital reserves of large corporations. These businesses have done everything they can to stay afloat through finding new markets, through taking up government loans and furlough schemes and general twisting and turning to do anything and everything to keep their businesses alive.

Restaurants and pubs have been selling their food as takeaway and factory businesses have been manufacturing items out of their ordinary production lines just to keep their machines running and staff in work. I have been incredibly impressed with the resilience and resourcefulness of our local businesses and they frankly deserve more than for me to tell them I have voted for a further lockdown given our local Covid rate and the national lack of evidence.

Our local health workers, carers and volunteers have also done a magnificent job and many lessons have now been learnt that should improve health and care provision with the second wave of the virus. Yes, of course we need to save the NHS but this cannot be at the cost of wiping out the economy; without which there will be no money to pay for an NHS.

The problem is that we (including MPs) are not getting a weighted assessment of the health costs in the context of all the other costs. When the Allied forces planned D-Day, an assessment of the human and material costs were drawn up before deciding to invade. It would be wrong to say that Churchill and the generals failed to show humanity in their assessment of likely casualties and human cost of invasion, but they weighed this up against the strategic objective of defeating Nazism and creating a democratic European continent.

As we now roll from one lockdown to another, with no vaccine, with a struggling testing system and no effective track and trace system, we need urgently to consider our weighted strategic objectives accepting that whatever happens, lockdown or not, we are ultimately going to have to learn to live with this virus.



Coronavirus (COVID-19)

For the latest Government advice on the Coronavirus pandemic visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus

 

For the latest medical advice visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

 

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