The official figures for positive Covid-19 tests continue to rocket up and the Government is on the verge of closing down the north of England. Well, if not completely closing it, they are going to restrict many normal activities in the hope that this will control the Covid-19 virus.
At the time of writing, I do not know the extent of what the Government is going to do because they are still in negotiations with a variety of mayors. The mayors and other prominent Labour figures have only spoken about how much cash goes with any lockdown and that its acceptability rising with the amount handed out. It is hardly a principled approach to controlling Covid-19 to see it as being barely more than an economic transaction.
It is not all about money but there must be solidarity from the Government. It is wrong to tell people who are on the minimum wage that they must accept a new furlough which only pays 67 per cent of their wages. It is wrong to continue to tell self employed people that they may not work and, because they have some small savings, that they cannot get any support at all. It is wrong that a balance is not struck between the protection the lockdown affords and the damage it inflicts upon our health and wealth.
Every penny borrowed to pay for the Covid-19 lockdown will be paid back, with interest, to the banks by children who have had their education disrupted and their opportunities undermined. Labour created tuition fees and they have supported the lockdown at every step of the way whilst knowing that the part time jobs many working class students depend upon have disappeared.
Many thousands of referrals from GPs for further treatment or screening for life threatening diseases have been cancelled and we know that the lockdown has reduced the availability of appointments and frightened many from accepting them.
The lockdown has created deep feelings of despair for so many as they have not been able to see their loved ones, visit elderly relatives in hospital or in a care home. Weddings have been cancelled, funerals restricted and family celebrations such as baptisms and birthdays curtailed. They are seeing the businesses that they worked years to create brought to the brink of collapse and wonder if our high streets will ever recover.
I and many others would accept all the difficulties and hardships if we believed that the gains outweigh the costs. The questions that I, other Members of Parliament, local councillors and mayors have to answer is whether it has been worth it, if the lockdown should continue and, if so, in what form.
When Covid-19 was still officially classed as a pandemic, we knew little of the science behind it and even less on how to tackle it. Huge numbers of people died especially amongst the elderly. The average age of someone fatally succumbing to this coronavirus is 80 which is why there was so much focus on making sure that care homes and hospitals had the support they needed. Admittedly, it took far too long to react but our means of manufacturing, distribution and exchange adapted rapidly as Government, officials, medics and scientists got to grips with the crisis.
We our now, as a society, in a far more resilient position than we were at the beginning. We are all aware of how to reduce transmission and our medical and health care infrastructure is ready in a way that is far beyond our preparedness at the beginning of the year. If necessary, we can reopen the Nightingale Hospitals to ensure that the health system does not become overwhelmed.
What we cannot do is repeat the decisions that we made in ignorance. Yes, the number of positive tests is now slightly higher than at the height of the pandemic but we are testing at least twenty times as many people. We now know who is at risk and how to protect them. We also know that the overwhelming majority have mild if any symptoms and they should return to normality. Let us hope that the lessons have been learnt.