Why I’m in favour of a Christmas lockdown

Martin port

By Martin Port

18 November 2020

18th November 2020 – We need to have a circuit breaker lockdown over the Christmas period. We need two weeks where stringent measures and penalties are in place to keep everyone at home: we need to stop COVID-19 in its tracks and we need to do it as soon as possible.

I’m saying this as a business owner and a father. My son is in the most vulnerable group; the longer this pandemic goes on, the more worried the whole family becomes. As a leader, I see my team valiantly trying to get on with their normal lives, working hard every day, all with the shadow of COVID looming over everything they do. It is becoming too much of a burden to bear.

At Christmas, many industries slow down. Offices close. It is the best time to impose a lockdown because it will have the least impact. Yes, retail will be affected but consumers will simply switch to online shopping. Retailers can start planning for an ‘e-commerce first’ strategy now, which could lessen the blow of a Christmas lockdown.

I know that calling for a circuit breaker may not be a popular move. Families won’t be able to celebrate as normal. In a circuit breaker scenario, immediate family only will be able to ‘bubble up’. But it’s worth it to protect all our Christmases in years to come.

The UK government has spent too much time worrying about public sentiment. Now, Boris must put that all aside and focus entirely on eradicating COVID. This means cutting all unnecessary contact between British citizens.

The softly softly approach to this current lockdown isn’t working. People are ignoring the rules and mixing in the privacy of each other’s houses. I’m no curtain twitcher but every time I see a party happening, I imagine hospital beds filling with vulnerable people who struggle to breathe.

The economy is so fragile. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more demoralised nation; we are all exhausted by the threat and the impact of COVID-19. Yesterday, Scotland is going into the highest tier of lockdown to try and slow the spread of the disease. Herd immunity is not working.

I know that all these lockdowns are exhausting. I am not going to pretend that I’m immune to the effects: I have bad days too. People that I care about are struggling with anxiety and isolation. But I honestly believe that we are only extending this pain if we don’t take decisive action, as difficult as it may be in the short term.

SAGE, which analyses COVID risk for the government, has already warned that if restrictions are lifted on December 2, infection rates will skyrocket and we’ll be back at peak September rates within weeks. Scientists have called for stricter measures to control the spread of the disease. Why are we still ignoring the advice of experts? There is no other way to move forward.

During the course of this entire crisis, the UK government has been slow to act. The top brass knew the disease was taking hold in the UK as early as January but did nothing until March. It disregarded recommendations from scientists and eminent physicians and brought in the second lockdown weeks too late. Misinformation has been spread with impunity. Lest we forget, more than 44,000 people have died from this disease. Of the people who contract it, one in five is hospitalised, according to the World Health Organisation[1].

Of course, the success of a circuit breaker lockdown all depends on whether people obey the rules. It is no secret that the countries that have shrugged off the pandemic the fastest are those where the people trust or fear the government, and are less likely to rebel. It worries me to see reports that Brits are already planning to flout the rules. One study revealed that four out of 10 young people said they refused to obey a Christmas lockdown. These are just the young people who were prepared to admit it to the YouGov pollsters, which means the true number is far higher[2]. It is clear that the penalties for breaking the rules need to be more severe, and better enforced.

I, like many of you, was so relieved when I saw last week that positive progress had been made with the vaccine. But we can’t let that cloud our vision: it isn’t here yet and there’s no guarantee it will be readily available any time soon. We have to use all the powers at our disposal now to prevent further deaths and long-term ill health. It’s time to unite as a nation, protect our NHS, protect our vulnerable people, and get behind a Christmas lockdown.

[1] https://www.who.int/indonesia/news/detail/08-03-2020-knowing-the-risk-for-covid-19

[2] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8918711/Four-10-young-people-say-BREAK-Covid-lockdown-rules-Christmas.html

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