South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay says it is time to end the “perpetual yo-yo of open up and then lockdown” of homes and businesses due to Covid.
He is one of 70 Conservatives who have signed a letter to government saying they will not support new tier measures without seeing full data on how this will slow transmission of the virus.
The letter says “The lockdown cure prescribed runs the very real risk of being worse than the disease.
“We are especially concerned about outside sport, the 10pm curfew, closure of non-essential retail, gyms and personal care businesses, restrictions on worship, care home visits, hospitality and the inclusion of children under 12 in the ‘Rule of Six.’
The MPs says there is a burden of proof on the government to show the “necessity and proportionality” of each restriction and they criticise the planned relaxation at Christmas followed by tighter rules again in January.
It adds: “We cannot live under such a series of damaging lockdowns and apparently arbitrary restrictions and expect our constituents to be grateful for being let out to enjoy the festive season only to have strict restrictions imposed on them afterwards.”
I was pleased to sign this. To cast a free nation into ongoing restrictions needs holistic data that includes the impact on other health conditions, the effect on the economy, likely to be generational, and be based upon unimpeachably sound data. #COVID https://t.co/U9mzLKCoMZ
— Craig Mackinlay MP (@cmackinlay) November 22, 2020
Mr Mackinlay says there needs to be an end to the ‘yo-yo’ of lockdowns.
He said: “Thanet figures for infection rates are near the worst in the country. I have been trying to get a reasoned explanation from health officials but am receiving no answers.
“As a country we are particularly good at collecting data and collating statistics but on this I am hugely disappointed. There is no publication of the stratification of age of those infected nor the likely source of infection – is it care homes, hospitals, schools, shops, places of worship or the domestic setting because of poor adherence to rules and guidance? Or is it none of these?
“I find it scarcely believable that East Kent residents are any different in their approach to anywhere else. There has to be an underlying reason. We need this data to formulate an effective strategy until vaccinations can be rolled out.
“We need to remove low-risk activities and locations from the sledgehammer of lockdown and bear down on the high risk.
“It is wonderful news that there are a variety of effective vaccines going through final testing, but the roll out across the population will take time. As I have said repeatedly, we need, in the interim, to live with this virus using common-sense measures and not enter a perpetual yo-yo of open up and then lock down. A new tiered system is likely after December 2; you can be sure that I will have my say as a critical friend of government as these proposals evolve.”
Later today (November 23) PM Boris Johnson is expected to announce a strengthened three-tier system once the country comes out of national lockdown on December 2 and plans for mass testing in all tier three areas, with the assistance of the military.
The exit from national lockdown appears to come with a variety of mixed messages, from strengthened tiers and mass tests to the expectation that retail and gym businesses will be able to reopen and family and friends bubbles will be permitted at Christmas.
The news comes as Thanet is marked as one of the top ten areas with the highest infection rates in the country. Swale now has the most recorded infections across the nation. Both are likely to enter tier 3 if restrictions are imposed at district level. Kent Public Health director Andrew Scott-Clark last week said that if restrictions are based on upper tier authority areas Kent as a whole could be forced into a top tier.
He said: “We know that Kent and many districts are in a different position in terms of the number of cases per 100,000. Currently two boroughs are on the national watch list. There is a lot of discussion centrally about what the tiers may look like coming out of lockdown.”
He added: “We should know by the end of next week or early the week after what level we might come out at. There is a view, not confirmed but likely, that upper tier authorities will go in a level as a whole.”
Government dashboard data today (November 23) finally shows a drop in the rate for Thanet. The rolling 7 day rate up to November 18 is 515.8 per 100,000 with 712 cases in the last week – down 3.8%.
At smaller area level some rates in Thanet are particularly high, with Broadstairs South recording a rate of 705.9 and Ramsgate Ellington area recording a rate of 692.8 while Birchington has the lowest rate at 298 per 100,000.
The government dashboard data says 3,367 in Thanet have had a confirmed positive Covid test and there have been 139 people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for Coronavirus as of 23 November. Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate but may not be the primary cause of death.
The infection rate figures, however, are different from those published by Kent Public Health for the week until November 19 which shows Thanet at 505.9 per 100,000.
Kent Public Health data says the sensitivity of RT-PCR testing methodology is reportedly poor and has been estimated to give false-negative rates between 2% and 29% of the time.
NHS data shows that as of November 17 there were 87 beds occupied by Covid positive patients in east Kent Hospitals (Margate, Ashford and Canterbury). Eleven patients with a positive covid diagnosis were on mechanical ventilation on that date. Between November 10-16 East Kent Hospitals recorded 10 deaths of patients with a positive Covid result. There have been 499 deaths in the hospitals to date of patients recorded as having the virus.
Community Helpline for anyone who needs additional support at this time. The number is 01843 577 330 and the helpline is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
Funding for local businesses will open week commencing 23 November www.thanet.gov.uk/business-advice.
There is a Facebook Group to provide local businesses with information, help and support: www.facebook.com/groups/ThanetBusinessSupport