It is a pleasure to be called in this debate, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to see the Minister for Health on the Front Bench—I have huge respect for him. This issue is one of national interest, is it not? This is not about party politics; it is about what we as individual MPs think is best for our country. MPs such as me, who disagree with the Government to a large extent, are not heretics. We do not want to “let it rip” and we do not want to see the elderly die; we are just trying to gauge as best as we can what is best for our country. Just because one or two, or a few, of us disagree with the Government, it does not mean to say that we are violently opposed to what they are doing. We have huge sympathy for them, as we have never been here before. But I ask myself every morning, and I have asked doctors and professionals this: if we locked down the whole country again for two, three or four months and covid almost disappeared, what would happen when the door opened and we all came out again? That little virus would be there, saying, “Hello, I’m back” and it would infect us all again, because it is a pandemic.
This virus is not going to go away. Two days ago, I spoke to a professor who is working hard on a vaccine at a Southampton hospital and he was optimistic that a vaccine could be found. That is great news, but all vaccines come with a health warning—they do not necessarily do the job, as we have seen in the past. Flu is still here. People who get the vaccine still get the flu. Flu mutates and new vaccines have to be produced. So even if we get a covid vaccine—it would be good news and I would, of course, welcome it—the pandemic will still be here.
Is all this worth shutting down the country for? My hon. Friend Paul Bristow does not want to be in tier 2, but all tiers are, in effect, shutting down the economy in local areas, to a lesser or greater extent. As a country, we are paying a terrible, terrible price, economically, socially, mentally, financially and in health terms. Millions of our constituents are suffering in unimaginable ways. I will end by talking about my parents, who, sadly, have passed away. I know for certain that were they alive now, they would say, “Richard, get out there. Get the country going again. Protect those like us as best as you can, but for God’s sake get the country back on its feet.”