Following the vote last night, I wanted to provide you with a detailed explanation of the significant work that has been put in to raise concerns and secure assurances for our area, as well as some much-needed good news.
Good news this morning
Firstly, are all waking up this morning to the news that today we are the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine and we have secured the most doses across seven leading coronavirus vaccines. This marks a significant breakthrough as the vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week. The NHS has decades of experience in delivering large-scale vaccination programmes and they will begin putting their extensive preparations into action immediately.
Campaign for a fairer, more localised tier for South Lincs
Last week it was announced that our area is to be placed in Tier 3 from today, 2 December 2020. As I have said before, I was profoundly disappointed to see this given that our rates of infection were more in line with a Tier 2 classification.
Ultimately, we have been assigned to Tier 3 because of the extremely high rates of infection in the north of the county, specifically East Lindsey and Boston. The rates of infection there are among the very worst in the country and because the tiers have been determined based on hospital admissions (Pilgrim and Lincoln Hospitals in particular which are very high) on a county-wide basis, we have been brought into the highest tier with them.
Following the announcement last week, I have worked very closely with my Lincolnshire neighbour, Sir John Hayes MP – in South Holland and the Deepings to call for a review of our specific tier on a more localised basis so that our rates and particularly the movement patterns of our people are better reflected. We have taken the following action:
- Letter to the PM: Together with Sir John Hayes MP, Sir Edward Leigh MP, Cllr Martin Hill and other local leaders we wrote to the Prime Minister to call for a more localised approach to the tiering.
- Met Health Secretary: Sir John, Sir Edward and I also met with Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP to convey our disappointment with the Tier 3 level and to call for a more localised approach in South Lincolnshire in particular.
- Call with PM: I also raised this issue for all South Lincolnshire residents directly with the Prime Minister on a call with him following the meeting with the Health Secretary.
In our joint statement published on Monday at the beginning of this week we stressed that we would not support the Government’s measures if it did not give clear assurances that they would assess our circumstances on a much more localised basis. Yesterday, we were pleased to receive a letter from Matt Hancock providing exactly these assurances. You can find copies of both our joint statement and the response from the Health Secretary attached below.
Now the work must continue to ensure that our rates continue to decline.
Tiers are still better than stricter national lockdown
Despite some quite selective reporting in the press, the vote last night was essentially to move the country out of national lockdown to a new system of reduced restrictions assigned by tier.
Had the vote not gone through, we could well have seen an emergency extension of the lockdown with even tougher restrictions and so as the vote did go through it means that from today our shops, churches, sports clubs, gyms, hairdressers and beauty salons are all thankfully able to re-open.
Most businesses are now open from today
To summarise, from today:
• All shops can open again
• Hairdressers and beauty salons can open again
• Outdoor sport such as golf and tennis can open again
• Gyms and other leisure facilities can open again
• ‘Stay at home’ message ends
• Our churches can open again
• Weddings can take place again
Financial support for hospitality
It does however mean that our pubs, restaurants and bars can still only operate a take-away service at this time. While nothing makes up for the ability to open the doors and trade as in pre-COVID times, there are a series of measures that have been put in place to support their finances such as:
- VAT cut to 5%
- the furlough scheme enabling staff wages to be met
- up to £3,000 a month in cash grants to help cover the cost of rent payments
From the beginning, I have fought for our businesses and residents who have been impacted by this awful virus and that work continues. For full details of the financial support available please visit: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support
This has been an incredibly difficult time for everybody, over 58,000 people have lost their lives, businesses have closed, and our everyday freedoms restricted.
The vaccine news today offers clear light at the end of the tunnel and marks an opportunity for us to move forward, reclaim our lives and get our economy moving again. Like you, I am fed up, frustrated and want this all to be over. We will get through this - gladly there are brighter days ahead.