Yesterday, Parliament voted to approve the regulations for the revised Tier system of restrictions starting from today. This places London in Tier 2 meaning that pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops can reopen but on a strictly Covid-safe basis with some restrictions. The rule of six applies to meeting with people from other households outdoors, but household mixing indoors continues to be banned.
Today brings the fantastic news that the first of the coronavirus vaccines has been confirmed to be safe, has been approved for use in the UK and will start to be rolled out from next week, though it will take several months for the vaccine to be available to everyone. In the meantime the level of coronavirus in our community remains high, thousands of people are being diagnosed and several hundred people are still losing their lives to this dreadful disease every day and we must keep doing everything possible to reduce the spread and protect each other while we wait to be vaccinated.
Throughout the pandemic, I have been in regular contact with King’s College Hospital and I pay tribute to the hard work of staff. Allowing the virus to spread uncontrolled would quickly overwhelm our NHS. As well as deaths from Covid-19, this would mean impossible demands on staff who have already been through so much this year, and lead to chaos in essential services like A+E and cancer treatment. For these reasons, I have no doubt that continued restrictions are necessary for the time being.
However, I am very concerned that the government has not taken the opportunity afforded by the second lockdown to fix the test, trace and isolate system which is vital in preventing coronavirus spread and enabling as many people to live as normally as possible within the restrictions. I am also very disappointed that there is insufficient support in place for businesses and self-employed people at this very challenging time.
For months, I have been calling on the government to fix the failing, outsourced test, trace and isolate system, provide the financial support people need to self-isolate and help our businesses and people who have so far fallen through the gaps in support here and here. The additional restrictions grant will simply not be enough for many businesses to survive, particularly for the hospitality sector and the arts. The Government must listen to the concerns of businesses and provide the support they need for as long as the restrictions last.
For these reasons, along with my Labour colleagues, I abstained on the vote on the restrictions yesterday. Abstention is the normal way that MPs show that they are dissatisfied with what is being proposed, but accept that the outcome if a measure is defeated would be even worse. The government only allowed a straight yes/no vote on the restrictions, without allowing any amendments to be made. I do not consider that acceptable and will continue to press the government on these vital issues.
You can read the full guidance for Tier 2 areas here but the key points are:
- You can only meet indoors, including in pubs and restaurants, with your household or someone from your support bubble.
- You can meet friends and family outdoors in a group of no more than 6, unless you are from the same household or support bubble.
- Non-essential retail and hospitality can reopen and schools will remain open, but you should try to keep 2 metres away from others where possible.
- Pubs and bars can only provide alcohol with a substantial meal, must stop taking orders after 10pm and close by 11pm.
- You should work from home if you are able to.
- You should try to reduce your travel, and walk or cycle wherever possible.
- If you travel out of a Tier 2 area into a Tier 1 area you should continue to follow Tier 2 rules, but you should avoid travelling to Tier 3 areas unless absolutely necessary.
- Swimming pools, gyms and hairdressers can reopen.
- Weddings can resume for 15 people and funeral can have 30 attendees.
- You can continue with home moves but should follow Covid-safe precautions.
Please keep safe at this difficult time. Along with my small team, I am working hard to support everyone in my constituency who needs help at this time. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to help. I am still receiving an exceptionally high level of correspondence, so please bear with us as we work to get back to everyone as quickly as possible.