Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 12th January 2021.

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Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East 4:15 pm, 12th January 2021

The Government’s complete failure to get the virus under control means that once again we are in a lockdown, but it is clear already that this lockdown is inadequate to drive the new strain of the virus right down to safe levels. Data shows that mobility during this lockdown is twice the levels of the March lockdown. The Government’s response to an inadequate lockdown has not been to address the real reasons so many are having to travel. Instead, it has been to launch a cynical PR campaign, blaming the public for a lack of compliance.

It is not the first time that the Government have sought to blame the public to cover up their own failings, which have led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. The real reason there is so much movement compared to the March lockdown is that people are having to go to work. Workplaces that clearly are not essential in the true meaning of the word are still open. Workers who want to work from home are having to go to their workplaces. Others simply cannot afford to stay at home. We need a proper lockdown to get this virus under control. That means the Government must provide the financial support needed for businesses and people to get through this crisis.

The Chancellor’s vacuous statement in the House yesterday showed that the Government are callously ignoring the financial hardship that so many find themselves in. A proper lockdown means that all non-essential workplaces should be closed and those workers who cannot work from home should be given full furlough. It means urgent help for the millions of self-employed people who have never had any support, and for the many others facing ruin and so are still having to work. It means sick pay at real living wage levels. The vaccines offer real hope, but it will be many, many months until they are sufficiently rolled out.

This lockdown should also be the starting point for a zero covid strategy—a maximum suppression strategy that has seen life return to normal in New Zealand and in much of east Asia. But this failing lockdown is a sign that the Government are just going to continue with their failing strategy. Thousands more will die as a result over the coming months. The economic damage will continue and future lockdowns may be needed. It will be the Government, not the public, who will be to blame.