MPs back second Covid lockdown – Ipswich’s Tom Hunt abstains in vote

Ipswich during the spring lockdown. MPs have now backed a second shutdown for a month. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich during the spring lockdown. MPs have now backed a second shutdown for a month. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The second national lockdown goes ahead from Thursday after MPs overwhelmingly backed the government’s attempt to reduce the impact of the Covid pandemic at the end of a parliamentary debate.

They voted 516-38 in favour of the move, with the Labour opposition joining the government to support it. The only opposition came from backbench Conservative MPs worried about the impact on the economy and civil liberties.

No MPs from Suffolk or Essex rebelled – although Ipswich’s Tom Hunt abstained even though he was in the Palace of Westminster.

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The only local voice in the debate was Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock who summed up for the government. He said: “In ordinary times, these measures would be unimaginable, but these are not ordinary times.

“It’s a virus in circulation that feeds off the human contact that makes life worth living and we must act to thwart its deadly march to protect our NHS and to save countless lives.

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“While we support every person and with everything we’ve got, support the science that with increasing confidence each day I know will help us to find a better way through.”

Mr Hunt did not speak in the debate, but earlier this week he told MPs: “It is difficult for some of my constituents to understand a second lockdown. We still have rates that are significantly below the national average though going up – and currently no one in intensive care at Ipswich Hospital although that is likely to change.”

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As the new rules were approved by parliament, Suffolk County Council was re-emphasising its call for residents to follow the government instructions and stay at home except for specific reasons to leave such as going to work, education, medical appointments, or to buy food or other essential supplies.

Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council’s leader, said: “We must now stay or work at home, unless journeys are absolutely essential. This isn’t about us as individuals. This is about protecting the NHS and saving the lives of our neighbours and loved ones.

“Please everyone, together let’s do what Suffolk needs us to do. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. Our actions today determine the futures of others. Now is the time to stick with it Suffolk.”

MORE: Local MPs back second lockdown

And it comes just days after Suffolk’s director of public health Stuart Keeble warned that the county had been very close to moving into Tier Two of Covid restrictions.

Speaking on behalf of the Suffolk Resilience Forum, he said: “This national lockdown isn’t an injustice for Suffolk.

“Our infection rates continue to accelerate, and without this decisive action, it would be just a short time before parts of Suffolk would meet some of the Tier Two criteria. Coronavirus is an acute and complicated challenge, one which affects our lives and our livelihoods. We must abide by the national lockdown from Thursday to ensure that we can enjoy our freedoms in the future.”

In Essex, county council leader David Finch said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure vital services remain available to Essex residents through lockdown, in line with government guidance and where needed are adapting services and putting additional measures in place so that they can keep running.

“We are in a much stronger position than the first lockdown back in March - we know what works and can move quickly to implement the appropriate government guidance, as we receive it.

“I would like to thank our residents, businesses and employees for their patience at this time, and remind everyone that the most important thing is that we all play our part, follow the rules and stick to social distancing guidance – if we do, it will mean we exit this second lockdown as soon as possible. But we can only do this by working together.”

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