Folkestone and Hythe MP says it's fair to ask whether lockdown could have been avoided if government followed a different policy
On Thursday 5 November the government is due to commence a second national COVID-19 lockdown in England. People will be asked to work from home where they can, all hospitality venues and non-essential retail outlets will close, and most leisure activities will also cease. This will continue until 2 December when the government will issue new guidance.
This is not a situation anyone of us would like to have seen, but it has become necessary because of the rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths. If we do nothing more then there is a real danger that the daily death rate from coronavirus could reach 4,000 by mid-December, well above the peak in the first wave which was just less than 1,000. In this situation the NHS would not be able to cope with the demand and the medical teams in our hospitals would be left to decide who to treat and save, and which patients would be sent home to die. We have to do all we can to avoid this.
It is fair to ask whether this situation could have been avoided if the government had followed a different policy. However, when you look around the world, you can see all governments dealing with the problems of a second wave of infections, coming as expected when the weather turned, and colder wetter days arrived. As autumn and winter approach, people naturally have weaker immune systems and spend more time indoors, all of which favour the virus.
There are significant differences this time around to the first national lockdown. Now schools will remain open, given the low risk to children from COVID-19, and the clear benefits of being back in the classroom both to their general wellbeing and educational attainment. Sport will be played in schools and elite sports will continue behind closed doors, neither of which were allowed earlier in the year.
I would also like the government to go further and allow grassroots outdoor youth sports to continue as well. I believe that the risks to the spread of the coronavirus from outdoor grassroots youth sport would be minimal. There would however be clear and lasting benefits for these young people if the government could support this.
At the end of this lockdown the Prime Minister has suggested that we will return to the localised tiered systems of lockdowns. As our area has been in tier 1 up to 5 November, I hope we will return to that level in December, which will allow people to enjoy Christmas in their homes, whilst not quite as usual, at least with some family and friends.
Finally, I have been contacted by a number of people who live in caravan parks across the area, and particularly along the coast. Despite the contact that has come from the park owners suggesting that these residents need to leave at the end of the week, I would like to make clear that the guidance from the Secretary of State for Culture, Oliver Dowden, as the lead government spokesman on tourism, is that, “Staying in holiday accommodation or hotels will only be allowed if this is for work purposes, or if it is your primary place of residence.” On this basis I believe that for residents whose current main home is in a caravan park, that they will be allowed to stay there during the lockdown.