Our thoughts are with everyone who has lost a family member or friend to this dreadful virus, and we thank people for speaking up on their behalf. I would like to take this opportunity to thank and pay tribute to all the emergency workers, NHS workers, teachers, school staff, local authority workers, volunteers and local charities who have done an amazing job of work over the past nine months across the country and particularly in my constituency. They face more months of having to deal with the reality of this virus. Mass testing and a vaccine provide notes of optimism, but they will not stop the spread of the infection here and now.
It is particularly difficult for us to debate this issue in this Chamber, because the rates of infection are so very different in different areas of the country. Indeed, I have been contacted by my own constituents, asking why the regional approach was set aside in favour of a lockdown: well, I am afraid that in my area, we are starting to see the reason why. Although the infection rates are now at 135 cases per 100,000—rates that are infinitesimally lower than some of the areas in Hull, as I know from speaking to colleagues—and we have just 23 people in our local hospital, we are starting to see those rates go up. Unless we follow with great fastidiousness the restrictions that are in place, I fear that we will see the sorts of rates that have been generated in other parts of the country—all the way across the country, indeed, down to the south-east.
I know that many people are concerned about the decision to reintroduce lockdown across the country, and the implications for businesses, individuals and families, but we cannot underestimate this virus or the exponential way in which it increases. The one thing that we did learn from the first wave is the importance of the NHS being able to continue to treat everybody who needs urgent care, not just those with coronavirus, which is a point I made to the Minister during his opening statement. It is tragic that so many people died in the first nine months of the year—far more than would normally have been the case. As I mentioned to the Minister, in my constituency we saw a death rate increase of 26% compared with the same period in the previous year. We have to make sure that people who are ill for other reasons continue to seek treatment, but they will not be able to do so if there is such a rapid rate of increase in the number of people who require hospitalisation or more intensive treatments. That is why we need to make sure that this lockdown works, and that is why the Government and the Minister are taking these very difficult decisions. I urge people who have contacted me and other Members about this issue to understand that that is why the lockdown is so crucial now.
My thoughts are with those who have lost members of their family, but also with those who face a huge job of work during the winter months in keeping our schools and hospitals open for the future. Now is the time that we can take action, and we need to do so.