‘Disaster for Norfolk’ - plea for region to escape virus clampdown
PUBLISHED: 17:34 18 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:34 18 September 2020
Calls for the East to avoid a further local lockdown have been made after warnings that it would be “disastrous”.
MPs and campaigners highlighted the “huge sacrifices”, “economic damage” and “inadequate” mental health support faced by families and businesses throughout the months of closures and isolation.
It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock warned a second UK-wide lockdown had “not been ruled out” to curb the growing spread of coronavirus infections.
But the region’s “significantly lower” rates of infection have prompted county leaders to call for Norfolk and Waveney to be “treated differently” and receive “bespoke solutions” to the creeping national rise in cases.
“Areas of the country such as Norfolk with much lower rates of Covid-19 should obviously be treated differently,” Richard Bacon, South Norfolk MP, said.
“I have emphasised this to the health secretary.”
But the Conservative MP said he understood the need for “local lockdowns in certain areas, depending on local conditions”.
Duncan Baker said North Norfolk’s - which saw one case in 100,000 last week - “incredibly low infection rates” were “thanks to my constituents’ huge sacrifices and following guidance religiously to keep one another safe”.
The Conservative MP added: “The prime minister has said that another lockdown would be disastrous and would be completely wrong for the country.
“I would not want to see a national restriction again in my constituency, but recognise it is down to all of us to do our bit and stem the flow of the virus.”
And Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “In principle I’m opposed to a national lockdown, as it does appear in recent weeks the rate of new infections in Suffolk and Norfolk has been kept low level.
He said it was important to highlight “deficiencies, such as shortcomings in track and trace, and that local health and council leaders had risen to the challenge.
“It is important that they and the councils are properly funded, so that we can combat local challenges with bespoke local solutions,” he added.
Their warnings came as the county was taken off the national coronavirus ‘watchlist’ - after being deemed an area of concern for the Banham Poultry outbreak.
The spike caused by the cases has passed but the county council leader Andrew Proctor, warned Norfolk wouldn’t be “untouched by the national picture and we can’t afford to be complacent”.
But Labour MP Clive Lewis said the chaos at testing centres was simply “the latest in a long line of failings by this goverment”.
He said: “The government made promises about a world-beating test, track and trace system, which they said was critical to get people back to work and school.”
The Norwich South MP added: “You’ve had a series of failings from government. This is their mess - and the public feel let down.
A spokesperson for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said a fresh national lockdown could not see a repeat of issues from the first time around, which saw hundreds of young people discharged from waiting lists in Norfolk and Suffolk and reports of nonexistent face-to-face support.
They said: “If there is another lockdown coming, it cannot be used as an excuse for reducing already inadequate mental health services yet again. It wasn’t simply that mental health services were delivered remotely rather than face-to-face: many people stopped receiving any help at all.”
And Labour children’s spokesman, Mike Smith Clare, warned vulnerable families would need more support during a second lockdown.
“Lockdown for so many vulnerable children and families sadly reinforced a sense of just how isolated and forgotten they had become,” he said.
“Add crippling poverty, loss of services and essential support frameworks to the Covid threat- then you’ve created wholly unacceptable toxic living conditions.
“Vulnerable members of our community need all the help and understanding possible to cope with whatever lies ahead - it’s essential that their voices aren’t ignored and their lives supported rather than overlooked.”
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman urged the region’s residents to stick to “sensible local measures” and warned: “We all need to do everything we can to avoid another surge of deaths and national lockdown, which would be a disaster for our nation and for the Norfolk economy.”
However, Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said while figures were “comparatively low... we can’t assume Norfolk is out of the woods yet. Covid-19 remains a grave public health emergency.”
Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew said: “If expert scientific advice tells the government local lockdowns are no longer enough to control the rate of infection - then the people of Norfolk should play our part to save lives.”
North West Norfolk MP James Wild said he was raising issues with testing capacity and called for a permanent West Norfolk site.
“We must remain vigilant,” he said. “The government’s approach means local lockdowns in areas with significant spikes.“
And Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP said: “No one wants everyone’s hard work so far to be wasted, or for this to be any harder than necessary. Let’s keep all our efforts up so that we can get out the other side sooner.”
South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss was contacted for comment.
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