The Government has now confirmed that further restrictions will be placed on areas across the North East, including County Durham. Inevitably these announcements will bring many questions and, as before, the Secretary of State has not provided a huge amount of detail of how these restrictions will work in practice.
First, like many across the constituency, I am saddened that these restrictions have been introduced, but understand the need for them at this time. Although County Durham may have relatively low numbers compared to areas such as Sunderland and South Tyneside, the rate of infection is increasing rapidly, and to ensure that the spread of COVID-19 is controlled, these steps need to be taken. To make sure that happens, a joint approach is needed across the North East.
So many people across the constituency have already made huge sacrifices and it is disappointing that the rising number of cases mean that they are having to be asked to do so again. I would like to thank everyone in Durham for their efforts over the past few months, and would urge them to follow these new guidelines.
Of course, there are more questions that the Government needs to answer. We need clarity on whether the North East will receive priority on testing, especially in areas like Durham City, that are expecting students to return for the new academic year.
Alongside this of course, the region’s economy is still recovering from the last peak of coronavirus cases, and so there needs to be more clarity over what support will be provided for businesses in the area that are only just beginning the road to recovering following lockdown.
Durham, and other areas in the North East, cannot afford to see local companies hit with more restrictions without, at the very least, an extension of the job retention scheme and more funding to help them ride out the difficulties these new restrictions may cause them. So many employees, across the region, are already worried about their livelihoods as a result of this pandemic and it’s vital that local lockdowns don’t exacerbate that insecurity and lead to further job losses.
We also need to see the Government working closely with local authorities and public health officials in the region. If these restrictions are to be successful, there has to be proper support and information sharing with those organisations that are best placed to deal with the situation locally.
I will be working alongside these local organisations, as well as Parliamentary colleagues in the North East to seek these answers from the Government, and to ensure that the region gets the funding and support it needs to help deal with this growing crisis and will keep my constituents updated via my website and social media when I am able.