Leave Norfolk out of lockdown!

Why Boris Johnson must resist putting Norfolk and Waveney back into lockdownPic: PA

Why Boris Johnson must resist putting Norfolk and Waveney back into lockdownPic: PA - Credit: PA

Back in the dark days of March Norfolk and Waveney were paralysed.

The A47 in Norwich, after the UK was put in lockdown back in March

The A47 in Norwich, after the UK was put in lockdown back in March - Credit: PA

It was a time of acute national crisis. People were dying at an alarming rate, the National Health Service was facing a crippling shortage of beds and there were very real fears this region faced devastation.

We did what we were told.

The people of the East rose to the government’s challenge. We pulled the shutters down, we stayed indoors and we sacrificed seeing loved ones.

That suffering must never be forgotten: Businesses died, our children’s education was paused and parents and grandparents were often unable to even hug their nearest and dearest.

But for the most part spirits remained high. The people of Norfolk embraced the national lockdown with a smile and a quiet determination to beat the killer virus sweeping the globe. We clapped. We baked. And we worked hard to do our bit for the national effort.

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And soon the region was able to emerge again. First shops, then pubs and finally we witnessed the joyful faces of our children as they skipped back to their classrooms to restart their learning.

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When the government began lifting restrictions we were told local lockdowns coupled with a robust track and trace system would mean areas at lower risk would not be hit by another blackout.

So why now is our region facing lockdown again? Very specific spikes aside we have not seen a rise in infection rates like those in the North and Midlands.

It is not that we should rule out lockdowns per se – if that last resort is required then so be it. But what we vehemently resist are needless, damaging shut downs.

Our businesses have reacted responsibly to reopening: masks must be worn, one-way systems are in place and shoppers are dutifully sanitising at regular intervals.

The people of the East never stopped doing their bit. We are still acutely aware of the dangers but we have embraced the ‘new normal’ and we are making it work.

But now another clear and present danger looms.

Today this paper is demanding the government does not punish East Anglia again. Norfolk and Waveney does not need another lockdown that would achieve little but devastate our economy, leave people out of work, impact mental health and lead to another horrific rise in domestic violence.

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The Eastern Daily Press is fiercely and proudly apolitical. We have no fear or favour when it comes to any political party. We exist to hold all power to account no matter what colour rosette it pins to its lapel.

That is as true today as it was 150 years ago when we launched. And it will remain that way.

But we do have a duty to you – our readers. And we will fight tooth and nail when we identify injustice.

A second lockdown would be a great injustice to all of us in the East.

No government would have got everything right when faced with a global pandemic. There is only so much planning that can be done for something as outlandish and ruinous as Covid-19.

However if our businesses do have to close again, if a curfew is put in place the blame will be firmly at the door of Number 10.

Track and trace is not working. Teething problems are forgivable but time and again we have been told a “world-beating” system will solve our woes.

And yet every single day we hear horror stories and still the government blusters along seemingly believing its own hype while targets are routinely missed.

We are taking a stand.

The EDP resolutely rejects new restrictions being imposed on this region. And our MPs should do the same.

Norfolk and Waveney is predominantly served by Conservative MPs. And several of them are cabinet ministers.

This means they are uniquely placed to pressure prime minister Boris Johnson. We need to hear their voices and witness their actions. Now is their time to prove they are not just government stooges but are willing to draw flak from their boss for the good of the people they are in Westminster to serve.

Because the truth is they are not the CEOs of East Anglia. You are. They are not in charge. You are.

So today let’s send a message to them and be very clear that come the next election they will be judged on how they stuck up for Norfolk and Waveney.

Of course things could change. And if there was a clear increase in cases we would, with a heavy heart, support any restrictions that were appropriate. Then and only then government can convince us the damage of lockdown would be less than the damage of a fresh wave of coronavirus.

We will still have cases. No-one is suggesting the East of England is somehow magically immune. But we are blessed with a population that has shown commendable common sense and the glorious, geographical space that means large swathes of the people are not living under each other’s feet.

Now is not the time Mr Prime Minister and the people and businesses of this fine county do not deserve another hammer blow.

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