SIMON JUPP IS THE CONSERVATIVE MP FOR EAST DEVON

It’s been eight months since coronavirus restrictions were first imposed. Sadly, lives have been lost.

In that time, you may well have read dozens of columns and articles about the virus in Devon. We’ve been bombarded by statistics, charts and graphs.

The science from SAGE is under scrutiny. But it’s scrutiny that would also be well targeted at Covid-deniers. The people who still insist “there’s no coronavirus problem, let’s all get back to normal” in a Facebook post on your newsfeed.

You’d be forgiven for being totally fed up by now.

Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon
Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon

The truth is that effective vaccines are coming soon. Mass testing is being rolled out through winter and into the spring.

In the meantime, the core principles of responding to the virus remain the same. We need to protect the NHS and Devon’s hospital capacity to ensure they can continue to treat non-Covid conditions too.

Given the good news on the horizon, some argue we should continue lockdown until the vaccine. For me, this isn’t justified.

We must safely re-open businesses forced to close to help protect jobs and our economy. And, as an example, I spoke this week in Parliament about gyms and leisure centres being closed for this period. Can we be certain that closing them to limit coronavirus transmission is worth it on balance? Hundreds of East Devon residents contacted me saying their closure is physically and mentally detrimental to their wellbeing.

That’s the increasingly clear price of lockdown. Allowing safe care home visits, partners in maternity wards, or families to see their grandchildren matter even more. And vital economic and financial support to prop up businesses and jobs can’t replicate that. Personally, the restrictions affecting family relationships and support networks are some of the most difficult to accept.

That’s why we should welcome the move from national to local restrictions. I strongly believe Devon should be in the lowest tier of restrictions to reflect the hard work and significant sacrifices we’ve made to successfully suppress the virus. It’s a point I’m making clearly to government.

One of the most normal activities many of us in Devon take part in – on hold since March – is going to a game at 3pm on a Saturday. Spectator sport can resume with strict capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.

Gareth Steenson of Exeter Chiefs legend holds aloft the winners trophy after winning the Heineken Champions Cup Final Match between Exeter Chiefs and Racing 92 at Ashton Gate, Bristol on the 17 Oct. PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK
Gareth Steenson of Exeter Chiefs legend holds aloft the winners trophy after winning the Heineken Champions Cup Final Match between Exeter Chiefs and Racing 92 at Ashton Gate, Bristol on the 17 Oct. PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Last month, I spoke up for the mighty Exeter Chiefs in Parliament and lobbied ministers to ensure it wasn’t game over for rugby clubs across the country as a result of the decision to postpone the return of fans. Now the government has announced a £300 million rescue package for sport. I will make sure the Chiefs are given a helping hand from the £59 million going straight to the Gallagher Premiership to help get through this difficult winter period.

So, as we do begin to think about life after the virus, my focus is on ensuring what we have now does not disappear forever.

Regional airports were on the brink. Passenger numbers at Exeter Airport dropped by 95%. And every day I spoke in Parliament about this very issue, there were no commercial flights and no connections in or out of Exeter Airport.

Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, at Exeter Airport
Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, at Exeter Airport

I warmly welcome the decision by government to provide business rates relief for regional airports. I raised my concerns with the Prime Minister and Chancellor, and they recognised the need to support our airport. Together with the new testing regime, the government is providing much-needed support to help protect jobs and connectivity in the South West.

Behind all the charts and graphs, there’s a very real social side to lockdown that no amount of financial supports schemes – however welcome – can replicate. And if we are to consider tighter restrictions again, the government must publish stronger evidence that they protect more lives than they harm.





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