I have spent the last few days seriously considering whether a second lockdown is in the best interests of North Cornwall and I can honestly say this is one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make as your Member of Parliament.
From the start of this pandemic, I have been clear that our public health must take priority, but as you know, things are not always as clear cut as a simple yes or no decision. Locking down for a second time will have serious implications for our businesses, individual’s employment, and families – and there is only so much that the state can do to help. It will also take a toll on our community by restricting social activities and keeping us apart. The mental health of North Cornwall is at the forefront of my mind, as I am aware that many of you have contacted me and are struggling. If you think you might need mental health support or want confidential advice on how to get support, please do get in touch with me and I will help in any way I can.
I have supported and continue to support a regional approach to Covid 19. The regional approach has only been in place for 25 days, and with the two-week lag in predictive data becoming actual data, it is difficult to determine if the higher-tiered approach is driving down the reproductive (r rate) of the virus below 1. I also believe that population density is the main contributing factor in transmission and therefore that making comparisons between cities and rural areas and trying to suggest they will behave in a similar way isn’t a fair or accurate comparison.
However, that being said, the data that is available at the time of writing shows that the trajectory of infections is rising and this is obviously of great concern. The conclusion I have reached is that even if the scientists’ projections are overestimated, there are still going to be large numbers of people in hospital around the country in the coming 4 weeks – and sadly this rise in hospital cases will lead to a rise in deaths. I am aware that much of this information is based on predicted data which has many variables, but the signs are that the country needs to take stronger measures. After factoring this in, speaking with colleagues in Government, and with local NHS leaders, I feel that I must vote in favour of the second lockdown.
When deciding whether to lockdown a second time I had to consider the ability of Cornwall’s health services to cope with a surge in cases, and our ability to share the burden with other parts of the country. Due to our geographic and rural location, we have a heavier reliance on our own local health infrastructure compared to other parts of the UK. Any potential rise in cases or fatalities weighs heavily on me.
The second lockdown does not have my unconditional support. As I mentioned in my statement on Monday, I required a road map out of this lockdown to be set out, and a package of economic support for North Cornwall’s working people and businesses to be put forward before I would consider voting in favour. These points have now been addressed by the Government and I have made this clear to the Secretary of State for Health and the Scientific Advisors.
I believe in the regional approach and I have also sought assurances that there will be another vote in Parliament on these measures at the beginning of December. If North Cornwall’s cases have stabilised and they are trending downwards, I would like to see us returned to the tier system before Christmas. I am sure the government will do both of these things but if I am in a position in December where Cornwall’s cases have fallen, and I am asked to consider another national lockdown, the government will not be assured of my support.
Asking North Cornwall to lockdown for a second time is not something I want to do, and I know it will be difficult. However, for the reasons outlined above, on this occasion, I will be voting with the Government and the opposition to enact the lockdown restrictions. My team and I will be working hard to support the constituency throughout, and I will continue to keep our community updated.
I would also urge constituents to remember that Cornwall had two million visitors over the summer from across the country and beyond and our case numbers stayed amongst the lowest in the country. I am confident that so long as we adhere to the restrictions, wash our hands regularly, and social distance where possible, we will be able to keep the transmission rate low – just as we have in the past.