‘We can’t be complacent’ - region’s MPs react to new lockdown restrictions
Norfolk and Waveney have been warned not to be complacent in the fight against coronavirus, as MPs praised the government’s new restrictions as “sensible” and “practical”.
The prime minister has unveiled a series of fresh restrictions across England - but stopped short of plunging the country back into a second, full lockdown.
Boris Johnson warned that the government must “act now to avoid still graver consequences later on” as he laid out measures including a 15 person restriction on weddings and a 10pm closing time for pubs, bars and eateries.
Norfolk’s MPs have welcomed the “clear and simple” measures and urged everyone to play their part in continuing to keep the county’s infection rates low.
Brandon Lewis, Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth, said: “The prime minister has laid out a number of clear and simple measures which, if followed will help to combat Covid-19, and it is essential that we play our part.”
Mr Lewis added: “Doing so will not only protect residents from the virus, but will help ensure our economy can continue to operate.
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“We are lucky in Norfolk to have low rates, but we can’t be complacent.”
Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, said: “Today is clearly a sensible, incremental step rather than a significant national restriction which I was so keen to avoid. As I spoke about to the Health Secretary yesterday, in low infection areas we are capable of controlling the virus with local lockdown measures rather than generic national restrictions and I am keen to see that happen for the time being.”
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He added: “I do think the government has heard that message from local MPs and these steps today are proportionate to continue to minimise the spread.
“I sincerely hope they are not imposed for six months, but that will all depend on whether the recent changes work to see those reductions.”
George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, said: “With the virus resurgent again the government must be right to act to avoid another 40,000 deaths from a second wave.”
The Conservative MP added: “It must be right to prioritise work and education. But this is very tough on the hospitality, sport and some other sectors for which I think we will now need to reintroduce furloughing to avoid widespread bankruptcy and redundancy this winter.”
Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew said: “The prime minister set out the long term plan for how we need to deal with the virus in a way that people can understand and get behind. We all hope for a vaccine, but even if one is developed next year, we need to recognise that we will be dealing with Covid-19 for years.”
Conservative Mr Mayhew added: “The aim of eliminating the virus entirely when it is pandemic is an unachievable objective.
“Instead, our objective should be to minimize human suffering, whether that is suffering because of exposure to the virus, or the suffering that is being caused by our response to it, from changes to healthcare, interrupted schooling or the impact on the economy.
“The prime minister sought to balance these needs, avoiding a lockdown with its devastating damage to the economy, whilst imposing longer term restrictions that, if complied with, should allow us to reduce infection rates, hospitalization and deaths whilst keeping the majority of life and the economy moving.
“Now it is up to all of us. The greater our compliance with these restrictions, the greater chance of success and avoiding the need for more restrictive measures.”
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith also welcomed the measures.
“I think the approach is practical and balanced,” she said.
“Everyone understands that we need to be able to stay safe while also doing our utmost to protect jobs and the other things we value.
“I would encourage people to keep up all our efforts, keep up our spirits and confidence, but stay vigilant in Norfolk by following these rules. We will be in this for some time yet.”
Meanwhile, Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “Over the last six months the NHS locally and the councils have handled the impact very well.
“So I thought we could have done well with local arrangements. That’s the point I made to the government.”
Mr Aldous said he also understood the prime minister’s position, and said: “To be fair on the prime minister, it is with a heavy heart that he came forward with these restrictions. This is not a full lockdown though. We are not going back to where we were in March.”
But Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said: “The government are partly in the bind that they’re in because they went into the first lockdown late and came out early - against what I thought was the scientific advice at the time - which was that it should go on for longer.
“One of the reasons they’re having the difficulties that they are now is that they’ve yo-yoed quite substantially.”
Mr Lewis warned that factors including seasonal flu and pressure on the health service, could see measures tightened in the next few months.
He added: “The key difference now is that not only is there a backlog of non-elective operations in the NHS that will be having implications, could cause deaths and a number of other factors, there’s also the potential for winter flu and that was always a concern that the scientists had - an overload and pressure on the NHS. That on its own could mean that those lockdown measures could come back in force.
“The government is walking a tightrope between getting the econ recovered and dealing with Covid-19. There’s clearly a fight going on between those who believe that the cure is worse than the cold. I do wonder whether they’re talking about people’s lives or profitability.”
James Wild, North West Norfolk MP, Richard Bacon, South Norfolk MP, and Liz Truss, South West Norfolk MP, have been contacted for comment.