“Only by having an effective vaccine & a zero covid strategy will we eliminate this virus and get out of this circuit of restrictions & lockdowns that are crippling our communities & businesses.”Kate Osborne MP
By Kate Osborne MP
I would like to say thank you to all those who have adhered to the second national lockdown restrictions. I understand that it has been difficult for so many up and down the country, being apart from friends and family for months and not being able to go about our daily business as usual.
This week in Parliament I voted against the government’s tiered restrictions. I did so because of the way this tiered system breaks the backs of the very poorest in communities like my own in the Jarrow constituency.
When we were last in the three-tier system, my constituency started in tier 2, it led to a national lockdown, and now we are back in tier 3 – it didn’t work. That’s why this week I called on the Government to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated, and that no area is left behind.
It is irresponsible from this Conservative government to insist those in Tier 3 put up with further hardship whilst at the same time encouraging a national knee’s up during the Christmas period. This irresponsibility is likely to lead to another devastating national lockdown in January.
There is no point in having brutal restrictions on the hospitality sector if people across all sectors are going into work with covid symptoms, simply because they cannot afford to live on £95.85 a week or do not qualify for the Test and Trace Support payment due to the strict criteria in place.
This Conservative government may believe that people are not self-isolating because they are selfish or because they are bored – but I firmly believe – the reason people are not self-isolating is because this Government are not supporting them to do so.
Many in communities like mine live financially week to week, month to month. If they are forced to self-isolate for 2 weeks, it means a slide further into debt and rent arrears. Making it financially possible for everyonewith covid symptomstoself-isolate must be a priority now for this government.
We have seen this in Liverpool, whilst mass testing there has been a success, it has been reported that the harder to reach communities had lower uptake. A Liverpool man confessed to the BBC that he did not want to participate in the city’s mass testing programme because he was terrified that he’ll be told to isolate, which he cannot afford to do.
It is also grossly unfair that local businesses in my region are set to lose out compared to areas of the country which have spent less time in restrictions. The one-off nature of the £20-a-head business support grant (Additional Restrictions Grant) means local authorities must stretch out funding for as long as they are in Tier 3.
The Tier 3 restrictions are devastating for community pubs like the Red Hackle in Jarrow who have been doing great work in supporting kids in our community when the government refused to fund free school meals over the half term period. The £1000 grant announced this week for wet pubs will barely touch the surface. It demonstrates just how much this government is out of touch with the struggle the hospitality industry is facing.
The government will try to present those of us who are against the tiered system as somehow being happy to let the virus rip. This is not the case, I believe in the need for restrictions in principle, but we need a greater financial support package that includes adequate grants for businesses, full pay for those who need to self-isolate, an uplift in social security and financial support for the excluded.
The government’s current plan risks a Third Wave (or at the very least a Second Wave that just continues and continues). That is why it is now time for the government to change its strategy. Only by having an effective vaccine and a zero covid strategy will we eliminate this virus and get out of this circuit of restrictions and lockdowns that are crippling our communities and businesses.
As we emerge into the new year, if there is a Third Wave and if we are continuing to have to be in and out of restrictions as a result of the government’s disastrous handling of the pandemic, I want people to know I didn’t abstain on this issue.
- Kate Osborne MP is one of a number of Socialist Campaign Group Labour MPs to have a monthly column for Labour Outlook, alongside Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, John McDonnell and Jon Trickett.