I want to focus my remarks on whether there is currently any viable alternative to the lockdown measures that have been put in place in my constituency. In my view, there is not. The argument put forward by some is that we could somehow isolate or protect the vulnerable, to allow the rest of us to carry on with our lives as normal, but how realistic is that? We have to be clear about the number of people that we are talking about. This is not just about people in their 80s. Our current understanding is that approximately one in every 200 people in their 50s and 60s affected by coronavirus will die. For people in their 70s and above, that figure is more like one in 10. Taken together, those age groups add up to something like 25 million people. How viable is it to keep them safe?
In answering that question, we must not compare it with how successfully we have been able to do that so far, because if we abandon lockdown measures for everyone else, there will be one key difference. Right now, as we are all involved in the national effort to stop the spread of the virus, we all play a part in keeping the levels of the virus low. That means that when a grandparent meets up with their grandchildren, their grandchildren probably do not have the virus. It means that when a plumber turns up to fix a pensioner’s boiler, they probably do not have the virus. It means that when a carer arrives to help get an infirm person out of bed, they probably do not have the virus. Most importantly, it means that when an older person managing their chronic illnesses turns up to their next GP or hospital appointment, the receptionist, the nurses, the doctors and the people in the waiting room probably do not have the virus. That is because we are all playing our part in trying to stop the spread.
If we were to let the virus spread among the rest of the population, we can forget all of that. We would reach a point where, in every single one of those examples, the vulnerable person would stand a very real chance of catching the virus because it would be rampant. That is the reality of the strategy that some are proposing. We would effectively be telling 25 million people to play Russian roulette every time they step outside their door—they can hug their grandchildren, but they run a real risk of catching a deadly disease if they do that. They can go to work, but they run a very real risk of catching a deadly disease if they do that. Most importantly, if they go to their cancer screening, their radiotherapy or their chemotherapy, again, they run a very real risk of catching a deadly disease. That is no choice at all.
But we do have a choice, and that is to persevere. It is not easy, and I have no doubt that we are paying a terrible price in terms of the economy, our wellbeing and our health, but I simply cannot see how that price would be outweighed by the loss of life on the scale we would see and the restrictions we would have to put in place on 25 million people if we were to give up. I do not think we can justify abandoning the older members of our society to their fate—not when, if we buy them more time, I believe we will find other ways forward. Whether it is a vaccine or mass daily testing, science will provide us with the solutions. I could be wrong. We could lose that battle in the long run, but we have not lost it yet, and I do not think the British people are ready to surrender; I know I am not. We must push on with these measures.