Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con)
In Huntingdonshire, as of last Friday, we had a very low and stable figure of 58 cases per 100,000, and about half a dozen hospital beds in Hinchingbrooke Hospital were occupied by covid patients. In effect, without lockdown we would have remained at tier 1 status. That is of great credit to the caution and sensible behaviour shown by residents locally, and also reflects the excellent local public services and council provision that I am seeing. If I were to support these further massive restrictions on our liberty and democracy, I would need not only more evidence for their chances of success than I have received to date, but an understanding as to why Cambridgeshire should be treated in exactly the same way as high-risk areas in the country.
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 already made redundancies and now dread for their futures. Huntingdonshire has one of the highest proportions of small business ownership in the country, typically without the capital reserves of large corporations. Those businesses have done everything they can to stay afloat, through finding new markets, taking up Government loans and furlough schemes, and general twisting and turning to do anything and everything to keep their businesses alive. I have been incredibly impressed by the resilience and resourcefulness of those local businesses. Frankly, they deserve more than for me to tell them that I have voted for a further lockdown, given our low 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 are now being learnt that should improve health and care provision in the second wave of the virus. Yes, of course, we need to save the NHS, but that cannot be at the cost of wiping out the economy, without which there will be no money to pay for the NHS. The problem is that we 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 was 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, but they weighed that up against the strategic objective of retaining a democratic European continent.
We now roll from one lockdown to another, with no vaccine, and no effective track and trace system. We need urgently to consider a weighted strategy, our objectives here accepting that whatever happens, lockdown or no lockdown, we are ultimately going to have to learn to live with the virus.