Almost 43,000 people have died through covid in the UK since the start of the pandemic. Those are not just numbers not grounded in reality; each number, each curve and each graph represents real people. Many have fallen ill and many have died due to the virus. They are our neighbours, our friends, our colleagues and our families. They died, in many cases, without seeing their children, saying goodbye for the last time in an ambulance. Our Prime Minister too was in hospital, while his partner was pregnant, and suffered a great deal because of the virus. Thankfully he pulled through and is fighting fit and doing his utmost to protect our people, but no one is immune to this virus.
The Government have the incredibly complex task of saving lives without compromising livelihoods. The economic measures put in place by the Chancellor to that extent have been among the most generous in Europe. These regulations are consistent with the Government’s strategy to defeat covid-19 and manage the demands on the NHS. I believe the Government are working hard to take that balanced approach, taking into account public health issues, broader health and wellbeing, and the economic and social considerations. Unfortunately, we have seen infection cases rising rapidly across the country, and the number of patients admitted into intensive care units in hospitals has increased. This is exactly the situation we must avoid. The Government’s job is to do what is best for the people, and to save lives while protecting the economy. One thing is for sure, however: no one wants to see the number of deaths and hospitalisations that we saw earlier this year.
My own area of Morley and Outwood, along with the rest of West Yorkshire, has been placed on high alert level at this stage. Such is the great variation of infections between the regions, there have been different rules in different parts of the country. This is the best way to keep our economy going without shutting down our entire nation. Today’s three-tier system ensures a collaborative approach between central Government and local communities. The Government are not simply introducing restrictions without the necessary support. I welcome the Chancellor’s further actions to protect jobs and to support businesses whose premises have been legally required to shut. The Government are taking the necessary responsibility to support the economy through this public health crisis.
As Conservatives, we suffer by instinct from the imposition of restrictions—I personally do—but we would not do it unless it was extremely necessary to safeguard lives. During lockdown, I had many conversations with care homes, businesses and constituents in Morley and Outwood. They all agreed that it was possible to keep the virus under control while keeping the economy going. I believe there is broad consensus in this House and in my constituency that the health of our fellow citizens is paramount. It is time for us, across the House, to pull together, across the country with local leaders, to put the health crisis first and avoid all party politics.