In the north-east, we had been under restrictions for some time prior to the national lockdown, particularly in Northumberland, Durham and Tyne and Wear. We have been tackling the problems in a proactive way, with local authority leaders coming together to see that we reduce the rate of infections. We were plateauing before lockdown, but it has been hard—hard for constituents not able to meet family and friends or to see their relatives in residential care; hard for businesses that have seen their trade or business reduced; and hard for those who have been excluded from support through the job retention or self-employed support schemes and who are facing dire straits.
Nothing that I will say today will be a surprise, as I have been banging on about this for the last couple of months at every possible opportunity, but just to go over it again, we need effective local test and trace. We needed it weeks ago and we need it still. It could have helped us to reduce the spread of covid-19 so much more effectively and get out sooner. We need real, effective support for those who may have to isolate but do not qualify for the £500 isolation payment or, indeed, any other payment—any sick pay. It is absolutely essential to stopping the spread of covid-19, and we have to give real, realistic support to our local businesses, which have already been hit so much more than in many other regions. It is their busiest time of year and they are not able to trade. The money announced today, they tell me, does not go near addressing their losses at what would be the busiest time of year, so I ask the Government to look yet again at that support and help those businesses.
Covid-19 hits hardest those communities who already suffer from health inequalities—communities like those in the north-east, communities like those in my constituency. We have been hit hard by this virus and hit hard by the lockdown. The impact on our local communities has been severe. Those concerns must be addressed. We have to learn that we must restore the funding to public health services to make sure that this does not happen again and that public health is able to respond effectively. My constituents and those across the north-east deserve no less.
A lot of my constituents are asking questions about why London is in tier 2 and we are in tier 3, and they perceive that they are being treated differently, so it is really important that the Government undertake to review these figures weekly, rather than every two weeks.