This afternoon I voted with the Government for a set of further temporary national restrictions to help our country in its fight against COVID-19.
These restrictions are not something I would support in normal circumstances. None of us wanted to be in a position of having to do this.
But these are not normal circumstances, and it is with deep regret and after a great deal of careful consideration that I have come to the decision that supporting these measures is the responsible thing to do.
In making my decision I have liaised closely with our local NHS leaders, to consider their views, and carefully considered the available data. There is a great deal of information, some of it conflicting, from various sources. I can assure constituents that I have looked at a wide number of sources and considered the different views and opinions.
Although Cornwall still has some of the lowest numbers of cases of COVID-19 and hospitalisation, our most recent figures show our rate of increase has been among the highest in country. With cases doubling every week or so it would only be a few weeks until our hospital was full if we did not take steps to prevent this.
It is therefore my view, on balance, that it would be irresponsible to not take action at this time. Inaction would risk allowing the virus to continue to increase in Cornwall, which would put more pressure on, and risk overwhelming our NHS. Protecting our NHS from becoming overrun, in the fight against COVID-19, has to be the primary objective of any restrictions. The consequences of this would be serious both for those suffering from COVID-19 and other patients requiring treatment.
This is especially true when you consider the number of older people resident in Cornwall. We know that this virus has much more serious consequences for people over 60 years of age. Whilst this 2nd wave initially started among younger people and students, we are now seeing it spread into the older population and this is driving up the number of hospital admissions across the country and in Cornwall.
I have also sought and received assurances from the Government that they will extend the support being given to businesses that are closed and employees who are unable to work as a result of them. Among others, such measures include extensions of the furlough scheme and the self-employment income support scheme, extension of government-backed loans, and additional funding for local councils to pass on to businesses. Cornwall Council will also be receiving in excess of £5million for further support for local businesses.
Moving on from the implementation of these restrictions, I also wanted to be confident of there being a clear exit strategy, both nationally and for Cornwall. I was pleased to see the Prime Minister on Monday confirm that the review of the restrictions on 2 December will be subject to a vote in Parliament, which will give MPs the decision on what happens next. Also, that when they end, we will return to a local tiered system, one that I hope will once again see Cornwall placed on the lowest tier of restrictions.
I am aware one of the main concerns of local people is that people are prevented from travelling from other parts of the country to visit their holiday homes. I am pleased that these restrictions make clear this is not allowed and anyone who does so will be breaking the law and liable to be fined.
These are difficult times and this was a difficult decision to make. However, I hope I have explained why I have taken it. I fully appreciate some will disagree, everyone is entitled to their own views. However, I trust everyone can accept that having considered carefully all of the factors and the information available to me, I have come to a decision that I believe, on balance, is the right one in the interest of the people of Cornwall.