No one wants new lockdown but we must accept it was inevitable as covid cases rise

So here we are, back in lockdown and facing a grim winter with little to really look forward to – because the festive season is going to feel anything but festive as it looks like we’ll have to do most of our socialising by Zoom or Microsoft Teams, writes Paul Geater.

I find the whole situation profoundly sad – although it probably isn’t going to impact on my lifestyle as much as it is some other people. I’ve never (well not for about 30 years) been one to go down the pub every night or go out for a meal every week.

We’d only eaten out in a restaurant once since the first lockdown – and only visited one pub’s beer garden. Both were during a two-night break in Norfolk which was the sum total of our holiday this year.

But I’m still sad that it’s come to this – although to be honest I’ve personally felt it was inevitable for more than a month now.

I know covid infection rates across the East of England, and particularly Suffolk, have been lower than the rest of the country since the summer. But since the start of October they have been rising faster than many other places that have seen the rate of increase, although not the rate itself, slow down in the face of some restrictions.

We learned this week that Suffolk was in line to move to Level Two of the regional restrictions within the next few weeks anyway.

MORE: Suffolk faced Tier Two restrictions

And I do have some sympathy for Boris Johnson who was clearly desperate to avoid a second lockdown if he could possibly help it. He clearly feels he has been forced into something he didn’t want to do. That sympathy, though, is very limited. I feel, that like in the first lockdown, he delayed making what was an inevitable decision until the last moment – and in so doing has increased the number of infections, hospital cases and deaths above what they would have been.

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But a second lockdown is absolutely vital – and it is a tragedy for thousands of families across the country that it has taken Mr Johnson and many of his ministers so long to accept the advice of his SAGE members and get on and bring it in.

Because the “circuit breaker” will now have to be longer and much more costly in terms of lives lost and in financial terms than it would have been had he done as advised and brought it in during the middle of October.

It also looks a bit rich that Mr Johnson and his ministers were ridiculing those who were calling for a “circuit-breaker” a month ago – but now they are having to bring a tougher one than that originally suggested because they didn’t accept the advice at the time.

It’s not just me saying that – it was The Spectator, the magazine beloved of the Tory Party and once edited by Mr Johnson himself, that first made that point over the weekend.

The fact is that lockdowns are the one strategy that we know work in reducing the virus. These four weeks won’t eliminate covid but they should bring down. In spring it brought down the R rate from three to 0.7, bringing down the incidence substantially.

Scientific experts (and I know some people don’t like experts, but we have to rely on them in a time of crisis) had predicted that without lockdown we could have seen half a million deaths. Of course the 50,000 that we did see was an horrendous tally, but without those measures it would have been much worse.

I saw several people on Twitter over the weekend saying “lockdown didn’t work.” All the evidence suggests they are totally wrong in that.

There’s also been some maverick Tory MPs like Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey saying the government shouldn’t “give in” to scientists, or that the second lockdown was introduced “on a whim.” All I can say is Thank Heavens people with these dangerous opinions are now far away from positions of power in the government!

MORE: East Anglian MPs back second lockdown

I’m also a little bit concerned at the attitude of some business leaders over the last few days who seem to think that the new lockdown has been imposed on them without good reason. Lockdowns are bad for everyone, and they’re particularly devastating for business.

But without the one starting today the NHS faces collapse. It wouldn’t be able to cope with the driver injured in a car accident, the person who collapses with a heart attack, the mother told she needs breast cancer treatment.

It’s nice to be able to go down the pub or have a round of golf with friends – but if giving that up for a month means that you’ll be able to get treatment when you need it then so be it. And according to recent snap opinion surveys since the lockdown came in, 72% of people (from across the political spectrum) agree with me on that.

It is right that business is offered support to help it during the lockdown – but the first duty of any government is to ensure its people are as safe as possible. I understand business leaders trying to bang the drum for their members, but it would be good to see some acknowledgement in their comments that the lockdown is aimed at improving safety and ensuring there are still healthy customers about when they can reopen. Sometimes their tone has suggested they see the lockdown as a dastardly plot by the government to destroy them, which it certainly is not.

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