I welcome the fact that laws imposed on citizens in relation to covid-19 are to be scrapped in a couple of weeks.
When these conditions were imposed on us all in March 2020 the context was the uncontrollable spread of a virus that was not understood, people were becoming very ill and thousands dying. We had no idea of the extent of harm that was being caused and no real method of protecting people other than to seek ways to cut the means for transmitting the virus.
Even then, the measures I supported in Parliament to attempt to curtail the spread of coronavirus was deeply concerning and completely alien to a country and Government that much prefers to allow people to be free. Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson are right. We can not continue to cower from this disease, we can live with it and we must.
The fact that other health conditions including cancers, lifelong conditions and failing mental health have been missed or treatment delayed has weighed heavily on our minds in Parliament. The fact that 641,000 pupils missed school last week is deeply concerning for the children’s education and welfare, the disruption for teachers and the impact on parents who are trying to restore some firm of normalcy in work. The fact that loneliness for many has been the only companion for a long time now is something we should remember before we jump to imposing such restrictions on lives in the future.
The startling truth I discovered fairly early on was the impact the lockdowns had on young adults. I met a number on zoom meetings whose only interaction with others, including family and close friends, was on social media or a virtual platform such as Zoom. Many missed important placements as part of their study, had their studies disrupted or were stuck at home on furlough. We banned them from seeing loved ones not in their household and, as was the case for many older people, far too many were completely on their own.
I regret having to take these drastic decisions but now we can hold our heads up high and bring an end to compulsory restrictions on people’s lives. We can do this with confidence because, whilst the virus is still finding its way around the country, people are not becoming very ill at the rate that we had previously experienced. Our hospital beds are not filling up and mortality rates are extremely low in comparison to recent months and other illnesses. We know this is due to the incredible vaccine rollout and I believe we can be pleasantly relieved that it has done what people said it would.
I remember visiting St Clare Medical Centre months ago when we were providing the vaccine for the most vulnerable and seeing the extraordinary team effort to ensure as many people as possible received a dose as quickly as possible. The confidence and commitment displayed in getting on with this national effort was inspiring and the motivation was to keep people safe and allow them to get back to living as they chose not as instructed by the State. The Government is right to reward this confidence and commitment by lifting the remainder of the restrictions and allowing people to take control of how they want to proceed from this point.