From Paul Maynard MP <[email protected]>
Subject Paul Maynard MP's Letter from Westminster
Date November 13, 2020 10:19 AM
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Dear friend,

After so much effort for so long, we can be forgiven for feeling downhearted and frustrated that we are re-entering national lockdown. Sacrifices have been made by so many – unable to see loved ones in care homes, separated from family members by restrictions on household mixing, or denied the chance to be with family in hospital.

I have heard it said that the previous lockdown did not work – but it reduced the R rate sufficiently to ease pressure on hospitals, which was the original purpose. It was never meant to eradicate the virus. Whilst there was some resumption of daily life, the virus returned in the second wave many had predicted – but at a pace that few had forecast.

We have clearly yet to ‘learn to live with the virus’ – a worthy objective, but one whose trade offs in terms of health and economic activity have yet to be spelled out. This is partly because compliance has been weakened due to a complex and ever-changing set of rules. Tracing contacts after a positive test has been both haphazard and with a low success rate.

Evidence from those areas which have successfully tackled the virus like Melbourne or New Zealand indicate that either total isolation (leading to economic depression) or unacceptable infringements on personal liberty are required, as well as relative geographical isolation also. Any relaxation only sees the virus’ eventual re-emergence.

As Blackpool was lagging behind the rest of Lancashire in terms of both infections and admissions, we have yet to peak. Community infections across Lancashire as a whole may have plateaued, but this is not necessarily the case for older age groups in Blackpool which is driving the growth in admissions.

Fundamentally, the reasons for these new tighter restrictions are to manage hospital admissions. There are now three times as many occupying hospital beds than at the start of October. Staff sickness rates are high again, and hospitals are struggling to staff wards let alone the reopened Nightingale hospitals. Whilst it is correct that mortality from covid has declined as treatments improve, this does mean patients may be in the hospital system longer. It also means deaths from other conditions increase as hospital beds become scarce.

More rapid testing results are needed so healthcare staff who are asymptomatic do not infect other patients. Also bear in mind that many are being ascribed ‘covid’ when they have a differing sort of flu if, the symptoms are similar. Additionally, a sizeable proportion are admitted for other reasons but found to have covid – so are in ‘with’ rather than ‘because’ of covid.

The Government seeks to reduce the R rate below once again in order to relieve pressure from the hospitals. Regulations are slightly more lax than in the previous lockdown, with schools remaining open, for example. I would also note that the restrictions on personal movement and liberty are far less than those in most of western Europe.

However, as with any hastily put together set of restrictions, they are rife with anomalies. You can wander a golf course with a friend taking exercise – provided you don’t carry clubs and strike a ball with them, it seems. Private prayer in a church is fine – but socially-distanced collective worship is not. The constituency office is still trying to deduce whether children’s sports teams can still use school sites for non-curricular supervised activity (it seems the answer is yes, but not at somewhere like Poolfoot Farm). Fishing is permitted but not angling – experts may be able to explain that. And the convoluted ability to pre-order alcohol from a pub is likely to cause immense confusion.

However, I am not asked to vote on each individual component, but on the package overall. I note from my emails how individual elements are frustrating people. Many critics of the lockdown ask me to consult my conscience before endorsing it – but it is ensuring access to healthcare for all which has to remain my priority.

But as Theresa May has said today, we also need to properly scrutinise the level of cancelled operations, deaths from cancer, the quantifiable impact on mental health, and the number of excess deaths overall – as well as economic data around the cost per person of ongoing interventions and any extra measures. Even SAGE’s report makes clear that “Policymakers will need to consider analysis of economic impacts and the associated harms alongside this epidemiological assessment” when making decisions.

People should be able to assess evidence other than just a simplistic graph showing exponential increase in positive tests (irrespective of how many extra tests there now are). At the moment, many people are basing their views on a situation where the covid-19 infection rate is the only statistic that matters.

Let us hope the lockdown has the desired impact, though I fear a vaccine is required as well as a mutation of the virus into a less damaging form (as Spanish flu did fairly quickly) for us to ‘learn to live’ with the virus.

Best wishes,

Paul Maynard MP
Conservative - Blackpool North & Cleveleys
01253 473701

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