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The right time for cautious optimism as coronavirus national restrictions come to end

Latest column by North West Norfolk MP James Wild, Friday, November 27, 2020

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but the season to be jolly careful’.

That was the Prime Minister’s warning as he announced that national restrictions would end on the December 2. He rightly sought to balance the optimism that comes from positive news on vaccine trials with the reality it will still take into the spring to start getting back to some kind of normal.

Boris Johnson speaking remotely from Downing Street
Boris Johnson speaking remotely from Downing Street

Achieving that depends on bringing the R rate below 1 and keeping it there; finding new and more effective ways to manage the virus including vaccines, treatments, and testing; and doing so in a way that minimises the impact to the economy, jobs, wellbeing, and livelihoods.

As part of that we will be returning to a three-tiered approach where controls reflect the level of transmission in local areas.

In all tiers, shops, personal care, gyms, and the wider leisure sector will re-open. I’ve been contacted by many constituents who will welcome that collective worship can now resume.

The rule of meeting up to six people will apply in outdoor public spaces. Weddings can restart with up to 15 guests and receptions in Tiers 1 and 2 but without receptions in Tier 3.

I’m pleased that fans will be allowed back into the Walks, Carrow Road, and other sporting events. This issue is very important to many and I called for this change in Parliament earlier this month.

For hospitality, last orders will now be at 10pm and closing time at 11pm – this will help to allow customers to depart gradually. Regrettably, there are further restrictions and in Tier 2 alcohol can only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal. In Tier 3, indoor entertainment, hotels, and other accommodation will have to close along with all hospitality, except for delivery and takeaways.

Decisions on which tier North West Norfolk goes into will be made after I submit this column. The data to inform that decision includes the case rate in all groups, rates in over 60s, the rate at which cases are rising or falling, as well as the pressure on NHS services.

The point I have made to ministers is that we should have the least restrictions that are necessary to bring R down.

At Christmas, up to three households can form an exclusive bubble to meet at any point between 23-27 December. This cannot be a normal Christmas and it will be a judgment for family and friends to decide if they want to meet up and to think about vulnerable family members.

Nothing is risk free but Christmas is an important time particularly after such a difficult year.

By Christmas, the plan is also to provide testing to enable care-home residents to have regular visits from up to two visitors and, importantly, be able to hug and hold hands with loved ones.

While the progress in the development of vaccines is welcome, there is still a long and challenging road ahead. It is only by sticking to the rules, that the virus will be kept under control.

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