The Prime Minister is right to act now before our health service is overwhelmed this winter.
Taking away people’s freedoms is not something that this government wants to do. It strikes against the heart of Conservatism and how we want to govern.
The Prime Minister is the most naturally freedom-loving prime minister we have had in a century. Yet when his expert and impartial scientific advisers showed him the data – mounting covid-19 hospitalisations, the possibility of thousands of deaths each day this winter, a health service overrun – he knew a lockdown was essential.
Anyone in his shoes would have made the same decision. This ought to protect public health in the short term and our economy in the long run.
Throughout the country, many are concerned about the way in which we have restricted the liberties of the British people. I sympathise with them.
The government resisted new national measures for this reason. Local measures were used and national and local leaders worked to tackle the virus in our cities and regions. However, the facts and the data have changed. The government must now act for the whole nation.
If this action is not taken, we risk seeing the health service overwhelmed. This would not just mean more coronavirus deaths, it would also mean that the NHS would no longer be able to treat other illnesses.
This year the government has worked effectively to increase NHS capacity. There are seven new Nightingale hospitals, 13,000 more nurses than last year, great stockpiles of PPE and thousands of ventilators on standby.
Unfortunately, even with these additional resources, the demands of winter pressures combined with coronavirus would be simply too much for the NHS, unless further interventions are taken to tackle the virus.
The sick would be turned away as covid patients occupy all available capacity. Life-saving cancer treatment and essential operations would be put at risk if the nation does not get the virus under control.
These new rules will not drag on interminably. As the Prime Minister has made clear, the new restrictions will expire on 2nd December and the government intends to reintroduce a tiered system which reflects the local risk throughout the country.
As Leader of the House of Commons, I am glad that the government has not introduced these restrictions by decree. The Coronavirus Act was made law with public consent by Parliament. Tonight, Parliament will debate and vote on the latest measures. It is essential that these rules are enacted with the support of elected representatives, who legislate on their voters’ behalf.
The Government would be wrong to introduce such significant new measures without additional economic support. The furlough scheme, support for the self-employed and the many billions of pounds’ worth of grants and loans to businesses are vital tools to support the economy throughout the pandemic.
Preserving these structures is the best way we have of nurturing our economic recovery. This way, the Great British consumer will spend again once the pandemic is over and dig our economy out of this disease with gusto.
All economies, to a great degree, depend on confidence. There will not be a recovery if the British people do not feel they are safe from the virus. It is, therefore, essential that decisive action is taken now to tackle coronavirus and ensure that those who may otherwise die are protected and able to enjoy their historic liberties in the future once more.