The Government’s new national lockdown started at one minute past midnight yesterday morning. Many in our area were hopeful that we would avoid more stringent measures. However, that is not to be. As the Prime Minister has made clear, it was an extremely difficult decision for the Government, but the responsible one to take.
Unlike in March, schools and universities will be remaining open as we enter this next stage. Teachers and early years practitioners have worked tremendously hard to keep children safe at school. It is vital for the future prospects and opportunities of our young people that their education continues to the greatest extent possible.
Many other businesses, from removal firms to construction sites and factories, will also continue working. However, these new restrictions will have an impact on many other businesses and livelihoods, so a further extensive financial support package has been agreed by the Chancellor to help the country through the next few weeks. Most notably an extension to the nationwide Furlough Scheme which has been so successful in protecting businesses and livelihoods. I know how resourceful many local businesses have been, like our holiday cottages, hair and beauty salons, restaurants and pubs, in making changes to adapt and re-open. That will leave us well-positioned when the restrictions ease again.
It is absolutely right that our first and foremost priority is saving lives and protecting the NHS. The UK’s Chief Medical and Scientific Officers have set out that, unless we act quickly to bring down the infection rate, there may be 85,000 deaths this winter with a daily death toll higher than in April. This would result in hospitals being overwhelmed in all areas of the country, including here in East Kent. That doesn’t just cost lives from the virus, but also costs lives from people not being able to get other life-saving health support.
I know that our determination and resilience in this constituency – and across the country – is not yet spent, and we will get through this second lockdown as we got through the first. We here in Dover, Deal and the villages came together so well earlier this year to support each other, the vulnerable in our community and our local businesses, and I know we will do so this time.
It is now up to each and every one of us to pull together once again, to wash our hands, wear our masks, and stay in our homes wherever possible. This is how we will keep our loved ones, our neighbours and our country safe. We all have a vital role to play in defeating this virus.
Rest assured I will continue to do everything I can to protect jobs and livelihoods and keep the residents of Dover and Deal safe through these extraordinary times.