Second Lockdown 'Must Only Be a Final Resort'

Local politicians respond to renewed surge in Covid-19 cases

Second Lockdown ‘Must Only Be a Final Resort’

October 9, 2020

A second lockdown would add pressure to save businesses and people’s wellbeing, but if it is needed to save lives “we have to do it”, Hounslow Council’s leader has said.

Cllr Steve Curran has warned “we can’t go back” to hospitals being overwhelmed if cases continue to rise in London, but he doesn’t believe Hounslow is at a stage where tougher restrictions are needed to control coronavirus.

According to the Government’s latest data for Hounslow between September 21 to 27, the rate stood at 49.5 cases per 100,000 people.

But figures calculated seven days up to October 4 show the borough’s rate hiked to 79.2 per 100,000.

It comes as leaked documents, seen by the Guardian, show draft plans from the Government to introduce a three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions.

Tier 3, being the highest level, could include pubs and restaurants being shut and a ban on households mixing, while Tier 1, being the lowest, could see areas continue with measures already in place across England.

Tier 2 could mean no mixing with people outside of their household.

Cllr Curran added, “I suppose at the moment we would be Tier 1, most of London would be…

“If they introduce further lockdown it’ll be for the whole of London, there is no natural barrier… we all roll into one.”

One of the difficulties to know the need for a local lockdown, Cllr Curran added, was due to the “failure” with the track and trace system nationally.

But he added: “The more testing you do, the more results you get, it is not going the other way, it’s going up.

“I think in the next couple of weeks the Government and the mayor will have to make a decision on lockdown measures.”

In neighbouring Ealing, where the latest government weekly rate shows 42.7 per 100,000 up until September 27, Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq said a second lockdown would “devastate” the local economy and must only be considered as a “final resort”.

Data for the seven days up to October 4, however, shows Ealing’s weekly rate rise to 93.6 per 100,000.

Dr Huq said, “The rise in Covid-19 cases in Ealing, Acton, Chiswick – and, indeed, across the country – is deeply alarming. This second surge was sadly inevitable due to our serially incompetent government, who have been responsible for mixed messaging and a botched test and trace system that still isn’t working seven months into the pandemic…

“I would only support harsher restrictions if there was a scientific basis for their imposition, if it was made clear at what point measures could be eased again, and if a local furlough scheme was established to support affected workers.

“Top-down, indefinite orders from above would not be acceptable. I call upon the Government to offer more support to Ealing Council and local communities to enable them to respond quickly and decisively to any fresh outbreaks now, so we don’t end up having to go through the nightmare of another lockdown.”

An Ealing Council spokesperson said the authority was regularly speaking with the Mayor of London, Public Health England and other London leaders.

“There is currently no certainty from The Government on what further restrictions might come from a move to Tier 2. Also the current restrictions are significant and may still have an impact,” the spokesperson said.

“The whole of London is seeing rising figures and the Covid virus does not respect borough boundaries, so a London-wide response, rather than borough specific, may be required.

“It is the responsibility of us all to abide by the current restrictions and it is vitally important that we observe:

“Hands – wash our hands regularly for 20 seconds

“Face – wear a cloth face covering in shops, crowded places, restaurants/pubs when not eating or drinking and in crowded public spaces

“Space – maintain a two-metre social distance where possible

“Rule of Six – gatherings of more than six people, including children, both indoors and outdoors is now illegal.”

Cllr Curran, who has been leading a recovery response to coronavirus in Hounslow, said the council has to adjust and “be nimble” as uncertain times continue.

In the event of a second lockdown, he said: “Of course it just adds to the pressure on businesses, it would add to the pressure on people enjoying, trying to get back to a normal life.

“It is something we don’t want to happen, but if it has to happen to save lives, we have to do it.”

He added, “For me there is a correlation between mental health and people’s wellbeing and being able to socialise and go to work. But we can’t go back to the position hospitals are overwhelmed and we have people who are gravely ill.”

Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter