‘Like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’ - MP on why we should avoid a second national lockdown

Dr Dan Poulter warned against "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut" over the threat of a second lock

Dr Dan Poulter warned against "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut" over the threat of a second lockdown. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

East Anglian MPs are to lobby the government to exclude the region from any future national lockdown – or “circuit break” – because of the relatively low number of Covid-19 cases.

Sir Bernard Jenkin said it was vital that school staff and students could be tested to avoid a secon

Sir Bernard Jenkin said it was vital that school staff and students could be tested to avoid a second lockdown. Picture: House of Commons - Credit: Archant

Imposing a national lockdown in our region when infection rates remain low would be like “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”, said Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich. He is worried about the impact of an impending second wave on the health of people in the region but feels local lockdowns would be a much more effective strategy. Government officials have stressed plans being drawn up to impose more national restrictions stop short of a full lockdown, a step which Dr Poulter said would be “disproportionate” at this stage. He added: “We’ve got to recognise that rural areas are different to urban areas, as people generally speaking live further apart. A national lockdown at this stage may be a sledgehammer to crack a nut. “There may be an argument for a national lockdown but this may be too soon to do it. In my view, local lockdowns are much more effective in predominately rural areas like Suffolk, north Essex and Norfolk.

“You could have a local lockdown in Ipswich and one in Norwich for example, which in my view would be the places where there is more likely to be greater spread, you have people generally in closer proximity to each other. “The situation is evolving very quickly and it is important not to rule out a national lockdown if we find ourselves anywhere near where we were at earlier of the year, with the virus running out of control.

“I’m certain that at this stage, that won’t be necessary for the next few weeks, because social distancing, keeping good hand hygiene and people isolating with symptoms, those measures in more rural areas should be enough to contain the spread of the virus. “A national lockdown would be a disproportionate response at this stage when we have relatively low infection rates in our areas.” He said it is “vitally important” that track and trace is sorted out, adding that without boosted testing capacity a national lockdown could be more likely.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt understands the reason for caution at present – but warned that a full second lockdown would be premature and could look like panic.

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He said: “I understand all the concerns, but mercifully we have avoided the spikes seen elsewhere in the country. I think it is important to give the rule of six the chance to work here – any immediate lockdown would be premature and could look like panic.

“And while obviously we have to put public health at the heart of the debate, we also have to consider the economy and the problems faced by local business and the mental health of people who have already suffered in lockdown.”

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North Essex MP Sir Bernard Jenkin felt it was vital to try to avoid a national lockdown if at all possible – and that was not necessary at this point. He said: “I would like to see more effort given to local lockdowns which have proved effective in many cases until now.

“Testing and tracing is also absolutely essential – and this must be sorted out. And schools must stay open so children can get and education and their parents can go to work. Schools need to be seen as much of a priority for testing as care homes.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous – whose constituency includes many tourist attractions in the Lowestoft area and southern Broads – agreed that the government should concentrate on local lockdowns in areas of high infection rates and at present there was no need for another national lockdown.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge is also Parliamentary Private Secretary to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and said he remained confident that the government would continue to take the advice of its scientific advisors and do what they felt was best for the country.

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