Should there be even tougher lockdown rules? MPs give verdict

A package of millions of pounds will help get tests for care home residents and staff. Picture: Gett

Coronavirus rates continue to rise in Norfolk. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

MPs and other community leaders have stopped just short of calling for even tighter lockdown rules - despite the recent surge in cases across Norfolk and Waveney.

But one of the county's health experts said there was a "strong argument" for more stringent curbs - though admitted he was "struggling with what that would entail".

The views were expressed as the first signs emerged of positive news in Norfolk, with the county's infection rate falling slightly week-on-week.

Paul Hunter, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, said there were some signs that the existing restrictions were beginning to work. 

He said: "Cases could be beginning to go down, but it is still very early days. 

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"There are some promising early signs but it is too soon to be confident of whether this is a remedial effect or a statistical glitch. 

"There is a strong argument for strengthening the lockdown but I am struggling with what that would entail." 

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Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis argued current restrictions were tough enough, and it was now down to the public to follow the rules.  

Mr Lewis said: “The main thing is that people need to follow restrictions: 90 to 99pc of people are, we just need everyone to follow the guidelines.

“The reality is that people need to stay at home and work from home if they can.  

“By doing this you’re protecting your family and the NHS. Not just yourself, but all those around you.” 

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker said he had been pushing for strict measures throughout the pandemic but did not call for any additional measures at this time.  

He said: “I’ve always wanted to make sure that the restrictions are followed.  

“Last March I was requesting that our tourists and second homeowners not come to Norfolk, to help control the spread of the virus.   

“We have an older, vulnerable demographic - we need the strictest measures we can to protect our population."

While the latest data has shown a slight drop in infections, Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said more may be needed. 

He said: “Although the latest 48-hour data shows a slight reduction in infections from the new Tier 5, with a 14-day lag between infection and hospitalisations, and some NHS hospitals already at breaking point, ministers may have to consider measures such as mandatory face masks or a short sharp two-week total lockdown.  

“We need to do everything we can quickly to get the R number back under control to avoid a more damaging long, drawn-out lockdown. “ 

Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said he did not think he would be calling for many changes at the moment, but said a tightening of the current measures might be necessary.  

Mr Aldous said the feedback he was getting from constituents was that adherence to the rules had dropped throughout the pandemic. 

One area he highlighted was shops needing to get better at making sure people were maintaining social distancing and not having too many people in stores.  

Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis argued that while there should be tough measures in place, the public was not to blame for a rise in cases.

Mr Lewis said he disagreed with the government expanding the bubble over Christmas, even before the new strain of Covid-19 had been identified, and argued it helped lead us to the position we were in.

“To have them now put everything on the public is wrong,” he said. “Yes, some people have broken the rules, but research from the BMJ shows that most people are following them.  

“The blame should not be on the public, the blame lies squarely with the government."

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said the most important thing was "striking the right balance between what has to be done to protect lives and livelihoods". 

He added: "It is a tricky one, but if there are things that can be done safely they should still be allowed to be done." 

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