Thank you to everyone who emailed me expressing concerns about the second lockdown.
By now you will be aware that the lockdown motion was passed and that I voted in favour of it.
I am disappointed that Ministers did not act on the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) back in September and am concerned that the delay in introducing restrictions will come at an economic cost and a human cost, and as a result, this lockdown will be longer than it needed to be. As you may recall, last month by Labour colleagues and I called on the Government to implement a short circuit-break in England, in line with the recommendations of scientific advisors.
I did not come into Parliament to restrict people’s freedoms and I do not want Parliament to be closing businesses, preventing people from meeting their friends and family or specifying how many people can attend a funeral.
However, while these new restrictions for England are in no way desirable or perfect, I do not believe we can stand still and allow the virus to continue to spread. It is therefore with a heavy heart, and in the national interest, that I support them.
Our focus now must be on pressing the Government to ensure that there is a clear plan in place for exiting restrictions. Ministers are yet to set out what criteria will be used to judge whether the lockdown should be lifted in England and I hope that they will clarify this as a matter of urgency.
More widely, I believe the UK Government must use this lockdown to expand testing and fix contact tracing. This should include regular testing programmes to ensure key workers and those most at risk are using new, readily available rapid turn-around tests, including those developed by UK universities.
I was therefore pleased to see this week’s announcement that mass testing for covid-19 will be rolled out to 67 more areas in England, including Lewisham. Scaling up community testing is vital to help protect jobs and restore confidence in businesses and the economy, and to keep workers, their families and communities safe by identifying those who may be carrying the virus without symptoms.
Of course, we have also seen reports this week of a vaccine becoming available soon, and I hope the Health Secretary follows through on his promise to ensure that the NHS is ready to roll out any vaccine by December.
I will continue to bear in mind the points raised by constituents as matters relating to lockdown and restrictions are debated.