Many constituents have written to me concerned about the impacts of the second national lockdown in terms of physical and mental health, jobs lost and damage to the economy.
I agree with them that there needs to be clarity about the trade-offs that are being made.
Lockdowns and restrictions cost lives, whether in undiagnosed cancer treatments, deteriorating mental health and missed A&E attendance – not to mention the impact they have on young people’s education, job prospects and our soaring debts. That is in part why I voted against the Government’s lockdown Regulations this time around.
I recently launched the Covid Recovery Group, a diverse team of backbench Conservative MPs underpinned by “Three Guiding Principles” for how the country should move forward.
First, the Government must undertake and publish a full cost-benefit analysis of restrictions on a regional basis. It is important that MPs have this information so that they can make properly balanced decisions.
Second, it is time to end the monopoly on advice of government scientists. Everyone is working under tremendous pressure and we are learning more about Covid every day. But prevailing expert scientific opinion must be challenged by competitive, multi-disciplinary expert groups from outside Government. Ministers should publish the models that inform policies so they can be reviewed by the public.
Finally, we must improve the measures we already have to tackle the virus, including significantly boosting the performance of NHS Test and Trace by shifting resources to local public health teams to lead contact tracing, and by expanding the NHS’ surge capacity.
While last week’s positive news about a vaccine gives us cause for some optimism, given the recent lockdown Regulations have been passed by Parliament, they remain the law. I will be following these rules and I would encourage all my constituents to do likewise.
Locally, the level of virus in the Forest of Dean continues to be lower than in most parts of the country and is consistently the lowest in Gloucestershire. However, it takes a collective effort to keep the incidence rate as low as it has been for much of the pandemic – by remembering the basics of ‘hands, face, space’.