Thank you to those who took the time to contact me regarding the government’s latest covid-19 measures. This is a very important issue as it affects people’s actual lives and their jobs, and the government is trying to strike a balance between the two. I and Ministers are fully aware of the need to do both.
A month ago, on average around a thousand people across the UK were testing positive for Coronavirus every day but now the latest figures suggest that this has almost quadrupled to 3,929. The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser warned that the doubling rate for new cases could be between seven and 20 days with the possibility of tens of thousands of new infections next month. As a result, this, when added to the usual winter challenges of flu and so on, could lead to thousands of deaths from November and those numbers would continue to grow unless we act.
If we can curb the number of daily infections, and reduce the Reproduction rate to below 1, then we can save lives, protect the NHS, and the most vulnerable. There is no other reason why the government is taking the action it is.
The new restrictions in England, to suppress the disease, and minimise damage to lives and livelihoods are as follows:
- Office workers who can work from home to do so. In key public services – and in all professions where homeworking is not possible, such as construction or retail – people should continue to attend their workplaces.
- From Thursday all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table-service only, except for take-aways and together with all hospitality venues, they must close at 10pm.
- The requirement to wear a face covering is extending. Now all retail staff, users of taxis and staff and customers in indoor hospitality will need to wear a mask (except when seated at a table to eat or drink).
- In retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors, Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations. Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach these rules.
- The rule of six is being tightened. From Monday, a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions. However, up to 30 can still attend a funeral as now.
- Business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events so we will not be able to open from 1 October. The government recognise the implications for our sports clubs, the life and soul of our communities, and the Chancellor and Culture Secretary are working urgently on how they can support them.
However, the government have been clear that all actions fail to bring R below 1, then further measures will have to be taken to protect lives. More information about these restrictions can be found on the governments website
It is important to stress that the new measures are not a return to the full lockdown. The government are not issuing a general instruction to stay at home. Ministers and the civil service are working to ensure that schools, colleges and businesses can stay open in a Covid-compliant way.
Many of those who have contacted me have expressed their concerns with the way in which these measures are being introduced and feel that there is a lack of scrutiny. I hope that the Prime Minister’s statement has addressed these concerns. Parliament will have every opportunity to scrutinise decisions, MPs will be able to question the Government’s scientific experts more regularly, gain access to data about their constituencies and join daily calls with senior government officials. And the powers being exercised by Ministers have been given to them by Parliament.
I continue to speak to Ministers every day about the decisions they are taking. And I am in regular contact with local health and education providers, as well as the local district and county councils. I am always pleased to hear from constituents on this or any other issues and am currently conducing a survey of all constituents – about 80,000 people – to ask them their views.
This virus is a fact of our lives and our fight against it will continue. Inevitably, it falls to each of us to remember the basics, to wash our hands, cover our faces, observe social distancing – and follow the rules. If we work together we can fight back against this virus, shelter our economy, protect the most vulnerable, safeguard our NHS and save many more lives.