‘If we don’t do anything, our hospitals in Norfolk will be overwhelmed’ - Norfolk MPs on why they will vote for lockdown
- Credit: Ian Burt
Norfolk MPs have said they will vote in favour of the national coronavirus lockdown - after seeing evidence from health chiefs about the mounting pressure on the county’s hospitals.
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman issued a statement on Monday that he was worried that the lockdown would see Norfolk paying a “very high price for the spread of the disease in Northern cities”.
He said he was only prepared to vote for the measures in parliament today if he could get clear evidence that Norfolk’s hospitals would be overwhelmed, that he wanted a clear exit plan, a commitment to stronger local decision making, proper compensation for business and an extension to furloughing.
But Mr Freeman said, having heard evidence from health bosses yesterday he was now minded to vote for the measures to protect hospitals.
The Conservative MP told BBC Radio Norfolk: “We spent most of yesterday in briefings with local Public Health England and NHS Norfolk directors and went through all the data.”
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He said Norfolk had handled the disease very well and had very low rates. But he said: “It’s very clear, looking at the detailed data and evidence, that, if we don’t do anything, our hospitals here in Norfolk will be overwhelmed.
“You can’t predict exactly when, but sometime in December and there really is no choice. We have to do something.”
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Mr Freeman said the data he had been shown would be published in the next few days.
North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker had said hospital admissions data showed the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital saw a tenfold rise during October, with England’s Covid cases doubling fortnightly which he said proved lockdown was “unfortunately necessary”.
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis has also explained why he will be voting for the lockdown today.
And Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said she supported national lockdown “with a heavy heart”.
She said: “This is now clearly a national problem. We cannot escape that in Norwich. We have been lucky in Norfolk to have lower rates than elsewhere, but cases are rising here too.
“There are now 10 times more cases in Norwich than a month ago and 15 times more people in the Norfolk hospitals. We are on the same path towards more cases, more admissions and more deaths, as the rest of the country, although perhaps a little behind.”
Miss Smith, who announced this week that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, said: “And if the NHS runs out of beds, we will not be able to have all the rest of the care which is so important, such as cancer treatment.
“It would mean non-Covid cases turned away from hospitals because there is no room left; critically important surgeries and treatments cancelled and many left without treatment.”
She said she knew businesses would be hugely disappointed at having to close again and said the government was making sure furlough support - and more - would be in place.
And she said: “I hope that our current position in Norfolk, with lower rates than elsewhere, will make it easier for us to get transmission under control and do our bit. “And I really hope it will be possible for us in Norfolk to move on once again after this, to a position where we can look forward to next year with more hope.”
North West Norfolk MP James Wild said he would also vote for the lockdown. He said: “Over the last few days I’ve had an intensive series of briefings with health ministers, Public Health England, Norfolk’s public health director, Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s chief executive, as well as the chief executives of the James Paget and Norfolk and Norwich hospitals to review and challenge the data and projections for Covid-19 across Norfolk.
“I have also spoken to the prime minister about the data and the restrictions.
“The clear message has been that with increasing infection rates and hospital admissions if we don’t act now then our local hospitals would be unable to cope due to Covid-19 and winter pressures.
“I wanted to avoid tougher controls as I know how painful they will be for individuals and business but I cannot ignore those warnings.
“Therefore I will reluctantly be voting in favour of national restrictions today on the basis that they are time limited and that furlough and other financial support is in place.
“As unwelcome as these measures are, Norfolk goes into these controls from a low tier and by playing our part we can ensure we return to it after December 2.”