View from Westminster: Lockdown has seen the worst of times – and best of times

News Desk (24 June, 2020)

We have seen neighbours, friends, families, our council and local businesses all pulling together

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I have been loving the local history pieces in ‘The News’ and one of Southwark’s most famous sons, Charles Dickens, began ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

This resonates today, after an extremely tough three months since the lockdown began. The restrictions on people’s movements and activities were aimed at saving lives by reducing the spread of the virus.

Most people have abided by the severe limitations and your extraordinary sacrifices have helped massively. However, the UK has still seen the worst death rate from COVID-19 in Europe with over 60,000 more deaths this year than in the last five years.

In Southwark the latest figures show that, sadly, almost 250 local people have lost their lives to the virus. My thoughts and prayers are with their families who have been through the worst of times imaginable, often unable to see their loved ones in their final days due to the lockdown.

Across the world, governments have taken different approaches to the virus. New Zealand locked down swiftly and the virus was contained with under 1,500 cases and 22 deaths.

In the UK, the Government has been forced to reveal that our Prime Minister did not bother to attend crucial meetings focused on tackling the spread of the virus.

Despite Ministers repeatedly bleating that they ‘followed the science’ leaks reveal that scientists wanted the lockdown sooner and one former government scientific adviser has suggested that our death toll could have been halved if Johnson had locked down just one week earlier. Johnson acted late and dismissed the severity of the situation.

Dickens continued in his Tale of Two Cities that “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness”. I believe New Zealand’s leadership acted wisely.

Johnson’s government left our NHS with insufficient protective kit, failed to provide tests for people for the virus and wasted time and millions of pounds on a tracing app that has completely failed. They still call it ‘world beating’ without any sense of responsibility for this avoidable shambles.

Johnson hates scrutiny and now withholds the number of people tested daily for the virus. This figure was being provided daily but has now been hidden for four weeks. Johnson also had to be pressured by the footballer Marcus Rashford into ensuring children got fed this summer.

The campaign for free meals during the school holidays has finally forced a government U-turn and will benefit hundreds of local kids thankfully.

We have some great local providers of summer activities, including the Central Southwark Community Hub, who will have their work cut out for them once again this year as the impact of the virus will mean even more people with low or inadequate incomes and more people unemployed sadly. Those organisations will once again need your help and donations to meet demand.

Here in Southwark the crisis has also brought out the best of our amazing community spirit. A Tale of Two Cities ends with “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done” and I hope that the best of people is sustained now, with us all continuing to help one another.

We have seen neighbours, friends, families, our council and local businesses all pulling together to support one another in this, the toughest of times and I hope that kindness and spirit is not lost once the lockdown lifts.

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