It feels not so long ago that I was writing in my column about the new heightened restrictions and what they would mean for all of us. Throughout August, even going into September, our cases remained relatively low. But I wrote that column 3 months ago, and a lot has changed since then. Since mid-September, we have seen a nearly twenty-fold increase to over 500 cases per 100,000. Now, along with the rest of Greater Manchester, we’re in tier 3.
Businesses such as soft play centres have closed once again. There are increased restrictions on pubs and hospitality. The 10 pm curfew has been shown not to work and we’ve all witnessed the scenes of mass gatherings at kicking out time with even games of cricket being played on the streets. That’s not helping control the virus.
It’s right, and I’m sure most people would agree, that the Government focuses on keeping schools open and children in education. Nobody wants a repeat of the injustice of the first lockdown that meant over two million children went with little to no education for weeks and even months. However, once we factor out school and workplace transmissions, there are very few sectors remaining where closure could have any real impact.
The hospitality sector, with table only service and contact tracing by law, seems to be taking the brunt of these restrictions again despite being arguably one of the most Covid secure environments to be in.
We’ve lived already under many of these restrictions since July, long before the tier system. That’s why I’ve raised repeatedly, including in the commons debate on the very structure of the system we now find ourselves living under, my concerns that the new restrictions simply won’t work.
I raised with the Government the concerns held by myself and so many others that there’s no apparent threshold or clear circumstances where an area can find itself placed in tier 2 or tier 3, and worse still – no pathway to deciding when those areas can come out of restrictions or be lowered a tier. Without clear targets, and without a pathway to an exit, we may find ourselves in a Hotel California scenario, entering restrictions that we can never leave.
The restrictions may by law be limited to 28 days, but if cases continue to rise then they may be extended or tightened even further. From no restrictions at all; to a new 4th tier; to a full ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown, while there may be unity against the current tiering setup, there’s not unity for any other plan or idea yet being discussed.
So I ask this hard task of everyone, especially as we approach Christmas and Chanukah; please give no more reason for us to stay in these restrictions any longer than we have to. Follow the guidance. Remember hands, face, space, and together we can and will get through this.