Orpington 1st column: Reopening Orpington
England’s four-week lockdown is an opportunity to drastically drive down coronavirus so Orpington can re-open and then stay open throughout winter. By sacrificing four weeks in November, I hope our local businesses can open with fewer restrictions from December.
No one wanted a second lockdown – but the Government had no choice. The NHS could have been overwhelmed by coronavirus patients within weeks. If this happened, the NHS would be unable to provide care for everyone who needs it. This nightmare scenario could have cost thousands of lives not only from coronavirus but other illnesses.
Orpington may have had a far lower rate of infection than other places, but we too were witnessing an alarming and rapid rise in the virus. Without decisive action, it’s likely that we would have been subjected to Tier 2 restrictions – which stops households mixing indoors – or higher for months.
By following the rules during this national lockdown, we can bring the virus under control again in Orpington. If we do, it means we could emerge with Tier 1 measures. This would allow family and friends to reunite over the winter months and fuel our local economy.
For this to happen, I have been publicly arguing that London must stop being treated as one place under local lockdowns. When Orpington was moved into Tier 2, it was because we are officially in Greater London, not because local circumstances demanded higher restrictions. Not only was this unfair and damaging, but I also do not believe it is backed by scientific evidence.
Orpington is more akin to Kent than the rest of the capital. And London is not moving as it once did. I can testify from daily personal experience that commuter trains are quiet. Many are not heading into the city and the virus is not spreading as it did back in March. That’s why we need a borough-by-borough approach to control the virus fairly across the capital.
After four weeks of lockdown, this is even more important as it would be a grave injustice to subject Orpington to restrictions it did not need. I have been strongly making this case in Westminster and I will continue to do so as MPs debate the way forward.
I understand it is a big ask for business to close temporarily once again to stop the spread of coronavirus. As your Member of Parliament, I voted for this time-limited lockdown on the assurance that the Government would provide businesses with greater support to protect people’s livelihoods.
And that’s exactly what the Government has done. The furlough scheme has been extended until the end of March, income support for the self-employed has been increased, and businesses are being supported with grants and extended loans. I fully accept that this does not keep everything at the level it was pre-pandemic but, unfortunately, there are no pain-free options open to the Government. However, there is now hope. The announcement this week that is appears that a viable vaccine – with an effectiveness of 90% - could be rolled out within weeks gives us genuine reason for optimism.
We all have a part to play in protecting people’s livelihoods. By shopping locally and supporting our businesses, we can protect jobs. And by following the rules with a strict determination to beat this virus, we can ease restrictions and keep Orpington open.
Article by Gareth Bacon MP first published by Orpington 1st.