With Covid-19 now spreading rapidly, locking down again is the right decision
This is the right decision being made at the right time, in the national interest, writes Alan Mak MP. | PA Images
No country that values freedom wants to impose restrictions on its people, but with the virus doubling faster than our ability to add NHS capacity, we have no choice but to impose additional restrictions.
Last March a spirit of collective endeavour swept across our country as the Prime Minister asked us to Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives. It was a momentous period in our national history, as Britons put up with restrictions to our freedom of a kind not seen in peace or war.
This weekend we were asked to make another united push to drive down a rising second wave of Covid-19, one that threatens to be bigger than the first, and I want to explain why I will be voting for these time-limited measures.
It’s important to acknowledge where we are. In this country, as it is across Europe, the virus is spreading faster than the reasonable worst case scenario put forward by the Government’s scientists.
No country that values freedom wants to impose restrictions on its people – not least Conservative MPs - but from Berlin to Paris, the great democracies of Europe have been forced to take further measures.
The French are being asked to stay at home for a month. Similarly, in lauded Germany non-essential shops, bars, restaurants and other venues have been asked to close. In Belgium residents must work from home and are forbidden to be out on the streets after midnight.
The reality is that whilst social distancing and tough regional restrictions have helped to prevent an uncontrolled explosion in the R rate, this highly contagious virus has persisted and R remains above 1.0 in all regions of England.
The virus is now doubling faster than our ability to add NHS capacity, even with the seven Nightingale Hospitals and thousands more nurses and doctors.
In some hospitals there are already more Covid patients now than at the height of the first wave. Even in the South West where cases of the virus have been relatively low, the projections indicate that hospitals there could run out of hospital capacity in only a couple of weeks.
If we fail to act now, then we could well end up in the situation where our nurses and doctors will have to be choosing which lives to save
The NHS faces being overwhelmed.
So we are faced now with the same, difficult choices faced by our friends in Europe.
If we fail to act now, if we fail to make this choice, then we could well end up in the situation where our nurses and doctors will have to be choosing which lives to save, and not just from Covid.
When the last lockdown was eased it was clear that the easing of restrictions would need to be conditional depending on the prevalence of the virus. Which is why the regional tiering system was the right model.
Nations, businesses and families cannot be locked down indefinitely and it is right that such restrictions are recommended with caution and balance, not political expediency. Businesses have gone to great lengths to make themselves Covid secure and their work has undoubtedly saved lives and livelihoods.
But despite this action, the prevalence of this virus now demands additional, temporary restrictions.
We cannot shy away from the hardship that these extra time-limited restrictions bring to families and businesses. And so, it is right that the government has extended the furlough scheme, which has already protected 10 million jobs, and doubled our support for the self-employed to 80% of trading profits.
We also know more now than we did in March.
We can keep schools open because our clinicians believe that remains the best place for kids to be.
We have better medication, treatments and cheap, rapid turnaround tests that we are implementing in the hundreds of thousands now.
We also know that lockdowns have an end if we adhere to the rules and stop the spread.
I will be voting for these time-limited measures, hard as they are, so we protect our NHS, stop the virus spreading and can return to a localised tier alert system as soon as possible. This is the right decision being made at the right time, in the national interest.
Alan Mak is the Conservative MP for Havant and vice chairman of the Conservative Party.