Ipswich MP: Lockdown must end on December 2 - and there can’t be any more

PUBLISHED: 07:39 06 November 2020 | UPDATED: 11:13 06 November 2020

Day one of the second lockdown in the centre of Ipswich.  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Day one of the second lockdown in the centre of Ipswich. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

I’m immensely disappointed we have now entered a second national lockdown. Like many others I truly believed the first would be the only one and I’m even more concerned about the potential consequences than I was the first time.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt abstained on a vote in parliament about the second national lockdown. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNIpswich MP Tom Hunt abstained on a vote in parliament about the second national lockdown. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

We are where we are though and I fully understand the reasoning for why many, including the prime minister, believed it was necessary. It is therefore important that we take the benefits that many hope will be provided by this short second national lockdown to ensure that never again do we have to go through such an experience again.

Over the past few months, I have been vocal in my opposition to a second national lockdown. My view has been that restrictions should be focused in those parts of the country with the highest levels of Covid-19 and that the Government needs a strategy that strikes the right balance between protecting lives, livelihoods and liberties and that the blunt tool of a second national lockdown wouldn’t do this.

I’ve been touched by the stories of a number of constituents whose mental health was severely impacted by the first lockdown and the livelihoods and businesses that may not have necessarily been lost but were, at the very least, badly affected; I was also touched by stories of loved ones being lost because of the virus.

The reason why this virus is so cruel at the moment is not just because of its potential to take the lives of our loved ones but also the fact that the most heralded way of supressing the virus has such devastating consequences for many people’s livelihoods and all of our liberties. Despite all the support packages outlined by the chancellor this week, including the extension of the furlough scheme, there is a limit to what the government can do to prevent some of the hardships that will come about as a direct result of the lockdown.

Some say that a two or three week lockdown last month would have been the panacea to all these problems. I do not agree. If we assume it would have been successful in suppressing the virus and the restrictions were being eased this month how can we rule out what it wouldn’t just spread again the moment the October lockdown ended? Potentially having to return in December?

This goes to the heart of the problem with lockdowns. At best they buy time but what they don’t do is truly tackle the virus, they just delay the spread of the virus on a temporary basis. It could well be the case that this lockdown does buy the NHS time until there is a game-changing moment, whether a vaccine or effective mass testing, however there isn’t any certainty around this. Therefore we do have to be prepared for the worst case scenario which is living with this virus for a time and I do not believe that under these circumstances a never-ending series of lockdowns is either the best forward or sustainable.

The prime minister has made clear that these restrictions will end on December 2 and I appreciate that he has to make these decisions at the national level. The reason why I abstained on the second lockdown vote this week is that I was conflicted between sympathy for the 
position the prime minister finds himself in with regard to having to make these national level decisions and the appropriateness of a lockdown for Ipswich. I do hope that this lockdown buys us time until there is either a plan B or an effective , but I’m absolutely clear in my view that this lockdown ends on December 2 and there can’t be any further ones.

n At the beginning of October, I visited Portman Road to meet the leadership team at Ipswich Town FC to discuss the challenges they face and what I might be able to do to help as the local MP. The club had been expecting to be a test case for a very small number of fans (about 1,000) returning to the stands and they were disappointed when the government changed its position. At the time Ipswich had amongst the lowest infection rates in the country (around 10 per 100,000) and the club had drawn up detailed plans about how this could be done safely. I make no apology for supporting the club in calling on the government at the time to have a rethink.

Clearly this will not now be possible so I have subsequently had discussions with the English Football League about what else might be done to support not just our club but other clubs as well. One of the ideas that has been floated by the chair of the EFL is a PAYE holiday.

I was very surprised to see a virulent attack by the Labour leader of Ipswich Borough Council David Ellesmere this week. He said: “Ipswich’s MP Tom Hunt is one of them. Just hours before the new lockdown was announced with infection rates soaring in Ipswich, he was unbelievably on the front page of the EADT calling for fans to be let back into football stadiums.”

It appears Cllr Ellesmere has become extremely muddled on the issue in relation to my recent comments on my meeting with the EFL. If he had taken the time to read my actual quote in full he would know I said that “Ultimately getting fans back into the stadium in a safe way must be a priority in tackling the financial pressures clubs like Town are under. But while the Government says this isn’t possible, we must have a comprehensive strategy in place to ensure they’re properly supported.”

This is hardly the irresponsible comment he misleadingly makes it out to be and my quote clearly reflects that we’re not where we were when I met with the club in early October. The club also provide a quote in the piece expressing support for what I said.

My advice to Cllr Ellesmere would be: instead of being deliberately distorting and misleading, he should work constructively with me and the club to ensure that it comes through this pandemic as strongly as possible.

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