National - not regional - easing of lockdown backed by community leaders
- Credit: PA
Norfolk and Waveney's MPs, community leaders and members of the public today appeared mostly in favour of lockdown being ended on a national scale - as opposed to the regional tiers seen previously.
On Monday, the government is expected to announce details of how current lockdown restrictions are to be lifted in the coming weeks and months.
Ahead of the announcement, and in light of recent figures which show in the seven days leading up to February 12, parts of North Norfolk, Mid-Norfolk and Broadland recorded almost no new cases of coronavirus, we asked MPs and local authorities whether they believed regional tiers should be re-introduced, or if a national approach is best.
Some said it was too early to comment, while others stressed the importance of how "finely balanced" the decision of how best to exit lockdown was.
Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland, said: "A regional approach to restrictions that is tailored to local circumstances would be best so long as people understand the rules and then choose to abide by them.
"However, we have to accept that this approach is more susceptible to abuse if people decide not to obey the rules. My concern is that the longer the fight against the pandemic lasts, the greater the likelihood that lockdown fatigue makes a regional approach harder to work.
"Simple messages are better understood and are more likely to be complied with. This will be a finely judged decision.”
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for South Norwich took a harder line, ruling out regional restrictions: "Covid-19 doesn't about-turn when it gets to a county boundary. It was surreal and tragic watching the government continually ratchet up futile regional restrictions until they inevitably had to impose a third national lockdown. That was the consequence of buying into an entirely false and ideological binary that pitted health against the economy."
Mr Lewis said a national approach needed to be taken.
He added: "Quite simply, if you want to save lives or jobs, it adds up the same thing. We need to target zero covid across the nation and, following the most circumspect scientific advice, build back up from there.
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"It is shameful that the UK has one of the worst global records for Covid deaths, illness and damage to the economy. At the very least, we should try not to make that appalling record even worse by jumping the gun yet again."
Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk said the county was in a very different place to where it was at the beginning of January, with falls in cases coming "week on week". He said the falling infection rates, along with the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine were all positive steps.
Mr Baker, who previously advocated for regional tiers, said: "The sensible approach would be that you have local powers to be able to control local outbreaks and we have seen that work so successfully in Wymondham and Great Yarmouth."
He said he had "always been an advocate of using the tier system" where there were lower levels of infection, but that national restrictions could be imposed "provided [areas] could quickly implement a local level of measures."
Elsewhere in North Norfolk, Richard Kershaw, sustainable growth and employment portfolio holder for North Norfolk District Council, said the local authority could not comment until central government had published plans for how the county would emerge from lockdown.
A spokesperson for Norfolk County Council also said the local authority "was waiting to what see national plan" was.
Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney also said more information needed to be gathered before a decision could be made.
He said: "I think the important thing is to make sure that when we really do come out of lockdown is that we don't go back in and this needs to be thought through very carefully."
Ruling out neither a national or regional approach to exiting lockdown, Mr Aldous said he wanted to see more information and feedback from "the health sector, the NHS and also from the business sector."
He said: "Rather than rushing from one view to another, I want to think very carefully about [exiting lockdown]"
When asked whether they thought lockdown should be eased nationally or regionally, readers were split on what the best approach should be, but many erred on the side of caution.
Stuart Sayer, said: "Any changes have to apply to all. As people will just move to different tier areas to get out of their own if other areas are better than theirs."
Katie Moore, said: "Nationally! People just travel to areas that are unlocked otherwise. They will all come to Norfolk."
Steve Harvey was not alone in pointing out there were difficulties with imposing regional tiers and it was harder to police. He said: "The problem with local tiers is keeping people out (or in).
"With a nationally imposed tier system, everyone knows the rules for their area because they are all the same"
Emma Ball-Rye, said: "What lockdown? Schools are still open to more children than in the first lockdown. "Non-essential businesses are flouting the lockdown with click and collect! You can still have a takeaway, go for unlimited walks, traffic is no different, [and] less people on furlough. Some travellers have quarantined not others.
"If we had a proper lockdown in November like we had last March we could have been with our families at Christmas and be getting back to normal."
Sarah-Lou Van Den Berg, said restrictions should be enforced at a national level, "especially with Norfolk being such a draw for holidaymakers and day-trippers" views echoed by Wendy Norman who said: "We proved that no one respects the tiers and people will only travel from high to low [areas] again which ends us back in lockdown."
Paul Jones, said: "Open it bit by bit, if they do what they did last time then we will end up in lockdown again, remember last time? it went from an hour a day exercise to travel anywhere in the country all day."