For those who are vulnerable to it, Covid is a dangerous disease. So it is vital we control it effectively. That’s why we set up the Covid Recovery Group in early November.
Our response must be rational and balanced, not driven by panic. It should be based on informed scientific, economic and health data, and it should take full account of the health and economic consequences of lockdowns and restrictions, which are serious.
First, we want to know for sure that the restrictions announced yesterday are serving their primary purpose of slowing the spread of Covid-19.
We want to know for sure that the restrictions announced yesterday are serving their primary purpose of slowing the spread of Covid-19
If they are not, we would be failing in our duty to protect people from the disease, to protect the NHS from becoming overwhelmed, and to protect our economy rather than grinding it needlessly into the dust.
We had a full national lockdown in November. Since early December, 99 per cent of the country has been living under the heightened restrictions of tiers 2 and 3. New rules which were announced on Thursday, forced four to five times as many people across the country into tier 3 than before the November lockdown.
Yet this strategy is clearly failing to break the transmission of Covid-19.
If it really was succeeding, we would be talking about an exit strategy from repeated lockdowns or about areas moving down the tiers. Right now, the only way is up.
There is no logic in having a lockdown when millions of people and businesses who endured it are forced to live and operate under increasingly severe restrictions afterwards.
It is even harder to stomach when there is no transparency or logic from the Government about how it has taken its decisions.
There is no logic in having a lockdown when millions of people and businesses who endured it are forced to live and operate under increasingly severe restrictions afterwards
These restrictions cause immense social and health damage and have a huge impact on livelihoods.
People are prevented from seeking the medical treatment they need. Mental well-being declines. Young people find their education, job prospects and life chances diminished. Lockdowns and restrictions cost lives.
The cure we’re prescribing runs the risk of being worse than the disease.
That’s why we have repeatedly asked Government for regional cost-benefit analysis showing the impact on people’s overall health and livelihoods.
Are these restrictions saving more lives than they cost? It’s a fair and reasonable question for any of us to ask.
And this call for data and evidence should have applied to the rules for Christmas too.
Earlier this month, the Government legislated to allow for festive ‘bubbles’ without social distancing over the Christmas period.
And now there’s been a last minute ditching of these plans and a cancellation of Christmas for swaths of the country.
Of course we would all like to see restrictions eased but again our call is for the data. What does the evidence suggest we should be doing, not least given we’ve been told that Covid case numbers will increase with even a minor relaxation in the rules.
That’s why we have repeatedly asked Government for regional cost-benefit analysis showing the impact on people’s overall health and livelihoods
Of course we would all like to see restrictions eased, but again our call is for the data.
What does the evidence suggest we should be doing, not least given we’ve been told that Covid-19 case numbers will increase with even a minor relaxation in the rules? We cannot expect our citizens to tolerate living under a system of laws that changes so frequently, which avoids the usual democratic checks and balances, and which is riddled with so much complexity and uncertainty.
Parliament must not be bypassed, with rules made and broken by a narrow group of ministers.
The best Christmas present the Government could give the nation is a different, enduring and sustainable strategy for living with Covid-19 that lasts beyond Christmas, which doesn’t ask people to pay a heavy price for their freedom.
It’s great news that a vaccine is being rolled out to the most at-risk groups around the country. But as this work begins, it is imperative that the Government sets out how this will translate into a return to normal in 2021 for us all.
In early December, the Health Secretary said that once we have protected vulnerable people, lifting restrictions ‘obviously’ becomes safer to do.
The Government should be clear about exactly how it will lift restrictions as the vaccine is rolled out and it should be clear when our freedoms will be fully restored.
Cycles of lockdowns and restrictions have failed.
The public and Parliament must be trusted with the data and analysis about the full impact these rules are having on people’s lives.
We need a clear exit strategy and offers hope and optimism for 2021.
It is time to lead the UK out of the Covid crisis and into a positive future.