I was listed to speak in today's Commons debate on the lockdown but wasn't ultimately called. This is what I had planned to say:
I have been a vocal, even outspoken, supporter of the government’s tiered approach to dealing with the rise in Covid infections. My constituency of Broadland has worked hard to comply with the rules on social distancing and has for a long time experienced a very low infection rate, with our hospitals largely free of Covid patients. But over the last few weeks that picture has started to change. The infection rate has started to rise, with the subsequent uptick in hospital admissions. And these are not just associated with local outbreaks in food processing plants, but are now rising in the general population as well.
Yesterday I spoke to the Chief Executives of each of our general hospitals. Looking at their admissions trajectories they warn that Covid capacity in the county will be filled by the end of November, with wider treatments being impacted thereafter. In one hospital other treatments have already been affected.
Hospitalisation rates are increasing earlier than their modelling was suggesting, with admission rates accelerating every day. They were unequivocal that something needs to be done to reduce the infection rate in Norfolk if we are to avoid the breakdown of NHS treatment as we know it.
So the government is right to take action now to make sure that the NHS remains in a position to protect us all when we need it to. In our response to Covid 19 we have to maintain a balance between lives and livelihoods. The warnings from our hospitals show us that, right now, we need to shift that balance towards lives, to reduce infection and hospitalisation rates to a manageable level. Whilst I could continue to argue for a tiered approach for Norfolk, I accept that the national picture is even more demanding, with almost every other part of the country suffering from significantly higher rates of infection, and so, with a heavy heart, I will be supporting the government.
But, a lockdown will suppress the virus, it does not remove it. As soon as restrictions are relaxed on 2nd December, we should be under no illusions that the virus will then begin to grow again, leading to a further spike at the end of December or early January. We must use this time of reprieve, bought by the sacrifice of many jobs and businesses, at the cost of mental health anguish and depression, to improve the effectiveness of the tiered system, in conjunction with testing, so that we are not faced with another lockdown demand in January.
The Commons voted for the lockdown: 516 MPs for, 38 against.
Member of Parliament for Broadland