Last weekend, the Prime Minister announced new Coronavirus restrictions across England. They aren’t as restrictive as the previous lockdown, but the impact feels similar. The restrictions will run until at least 2 December.
On Sunday, I launched a poll on my website. By Wednesday, it had nearly a thousand responses, with 55% of people supporting the measures, 35% opposing them and 10% unsure.
This shows a clear majority in favour. Perhaps it’s not representative of everyone in Peterborough, but national opinion polls show the same thing.
Personally, I hate these restrictions. Lockdowns hit those on low incomes hardest. They are particularly bad for people who work shifts, who rely on casual work or who work in retail and hospitality.
Staying at home for extended periods is difficult. It’s really tough for those who live alone or share a small property. For many people, it’s also a challenge for their mental health.
I firmly believe in personal freedom. It’s at the core of my beliefs and makes me question harder than ever whether this lockdown is necessary.
My father died of an aggressive brain tumour during the lockdown earlier this year. I was unable to take his grandchildren to see him in his final weeks and days. I grieve over the fact we can’t say goodbye in the way we would want. This thought still haunts me.
Whatever my instincts, however, I am not a scientist or an epidemiologist. They are telling us that the data has changed in recent days.
When the Chief Medical Officer tells us that a lockdown is now the only way to prevent our NHS being overwhelmed, with more people in hospital fighting for their lives, and many more deaths, it’s impossible to ignore.
Our NHS is there to protect us. Not only must we avoid Intensive Care Units exceeding capacity, but we also need to stop more surgery and routine treatments being cancelled. Doctors and nurses should not face the terrible decision to make to turn away those in need.
This is a cruel virus. It attacks the thing we value above all else – human contact. It attacks people’s freedom. It attacks people’s jobs and businesses.
It attacks some of the best things about our City, which make our lives enjoyable – our theatres, our shops, our pubs, and our cafes and restaurants. They will all need more help.
I have been fighting for the resources we need. The Government has extended and reinstated the furlough scheme at the full rate. The self-employment income support scheme is extended for the third time. Many other businesses will get up to £3,000 a month.
Pubs and restaurants will be able to provide takeaway services. I am also lobbying Ministers on how COVID-secure gyms, places of worship, and other facilities might be able to stay open.
We must do what we can to protect the NHS and each other during the difficult winter months. But our City will need this help and more to cope.
Few of us wanted to go through all this again. Rightly, the Government did everything it could to avoid it.
What gives me hope is Peterborough itself. We came together like no other City and will do so again. Our Coronavirus heroes are still with us and still being remarkable.
As tough as this is, we will pull through and look forward, with hope, to a better Christmas. And as we look to the new year, we have hope for a vaccine and hope for our prospects.
Peterborough’s regeneration and our new university mean a positive future beyond the pandemic.