Lisa Nandy MP: We must fight the virus together
The decision to extend lockdown in Wigan this week is incredibly hard to bear.
With businesses under strain, families desperate to see one another and many people losing work it’s becoming difficult for many to see an end in sight.
We’ve already been under tight local restrictions for weeks now and I am contacted every day by people who describe how their personal and professional lives have been overturned by the impact of this terrible virus.
But the truth is that the situation is more serious than it has been at any point during this pandemic.
Over the most recent seven day period there were over 1,000 new cases of coronavirus diagnosed in the Wigan borough, a figure that is almost double the number of new cases compared to the week before.
We also have one of the highest infection rates in the country with a rate of 333.8 per 100,000 people compared to a national average of 140.4 per 100,000 people.
I have been briefed on the current situation by the Chief Medical Officer and members of the Government’s team of scientific advisors and their view is clear - there is a real need for decisive action to be taken to stem the exponential rise in cases, prevent further deaths and protect our NHS from being overwhelmed.
The way this has been handled has been by the Government in the last week has been completely shambolic.
Details of the new three-tier system were leaked to the national papers before crucial details had been decided or any local leaders had been consulted, causing unnecessary confusion and anger amongst people and businesses in our region.
The Prime Minister went missing over the weekend as confusion grew.
Still now the government is refusing to involve public health experts in the communities that would be affected in drawing up the new plans.
This was followed on Monday by shambolic, hastily arranged briefings for MPs whose areas were being locked down.
The Wigan MPs were not invited, presumably because the Government was struggling to place us on a map.
In nearby Warrington the local MP was invited to a briefing for Liverpool MPs. There is a serious point. It is clear that these restrictions are being put in place by a Government with no idea of the geography of the North West, or of the reality of life in lockdown for millions of people.
For people to have confidence in the rules they are being asked to follow they must also be confident that decisions are being made with local conditions in mind and with local leaders and communities.
Successful countries like New Zealand have taken this approach working with their communities, not against them.
There also must be an enhanced financial package to help businesses that will be affected by new restrictions that goes beyond the inadequate measures that already been announced by the Chancellor.
The promise was to “level up” the north, not level us down.
They only way we will beat this virus is by fighting it together.
It’s not too late for the Government to think again about how it is approaching this crisis and work with local leaders and communities to get the virus under control.