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Lockdown: your questions answered

Below is a list of frequently asked questions on the new national lockdown coming into force this Wednesday (6 January) and some Stephen’s views:

National lockdown

What is the justification for a national lockdown?

It is clear that the virus is out of control, more and more people are getting infected by the disease and this is putting immense pressure on our NHS.  The tiers established by Government put Portsmouth in the toughest of tiers, yet this has not been working well to contain the virus.

Stephen has said that the Government should have acted on the scientific advice it had before Christmas that a lockdown similar to March was needed to get control of the virus. He also believes Ministers must not keep making the same mistakes again, which is why a national lockdown is now necessary.

‘We need a step change in our response from Government to the virus and a national effort to get control of the virus, protect the NHS, vaccinate Britain’ Stephen has said.

What should be included in a national lockdown?

It is right that the Government has set out that the national lockdown is for all of England comparable to the restrictions introduced in March.

Schools are part of the national lockdown but Stephen believes measures need to be put in place to protect working parents, for children to learn at home, and for schools to reopen safely as soon as possible.

Where can I find the government guidance on this third national lockdown?

The Government has published guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

Vaccine

What does Stephen want to see happen with the vaccine roll out?

Our country was the first in the world to get the vaccine, we should now aim to be the first in the world to get vaccinated.

Stephen wants to see the Government delivering a vaccination programme with the very least two million people a week getting the jab, with the aim of doubling that figure by the end of February.

Government should recruit an army of volunteers to help and cut the red tape that is making it difficult for retired NHS staff to help out and Ministers should ensure we have vaccination centres in every local community and provide GPs with the resources they need.

Stephen is calling for Portsmouth to have a vaccination hub as soon as possible, and alongside this, has been calling for mass testing in the community.

The government must also be clear with the public about the number of vaccines we have available every day and getting on with delivering them.

‘The NHS says it is ready – the Government must now deliver’ says Stephen.

The local economy

What financial support should be in place?

Introducing a national lockdown now is the best way to support the economy. If the PM had continued to dither and delay he would have caused greater damage to businesses, jobs and livelihoods in our city.

Stephen has been taken action to ensure the economic package from Government supports businesses through this crisis and reflects the severity of restrictions.

In particular the government should immediately:

  • Use the £2 billion handed back to the Treasury by supermarkets and other large shops to help hard-hit businesses, including those in hospitality, and those who have been excluded from support.
  • Reform the one-off £20-a-head business support payment so that areas that have been in tougher restrictions for longer get more support.
  • Amend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme so people who have got new jobs since October 31st and are now at risk of losing them can be placed on furlough.
  • Find a solution to help those excluded from financial support so far from Government.

Stephen is calling for greater support for Portsmouth in light of the city entering national lockdown after being in the toughest conditions in tier 4.

Schools

Should schools be shut?  

Yes. Stephen has said the closure of schools for most pupils is a huge failure because the Government has lost control of the virus and been too slow.

Education has been Labour’s priority throughout the pandemic and have always said that schools must be the last thing to close.

The switch to remote learning for most pupils now looks inevitable and sadly necessary as part of a national lockdown.

The government need a plan for school closures to ensure that pupils don’t fall behind, that working parents and staff are supported, and that schools are reopened safely as soon as possible.

What provision should be in place for children missing out on school?

We must get children back in school safely as soon as possible, with a clear timeframe for reopening.

During the lockdown, all vulnerable and key worker children who can be in school should be. Stephen is calling on the government to work with schools and councils to ensure that vulnerable children are identified and supported to attend school throughout a national lockdown.

All pupils who are learning remotely must have the resources they need to do so. That means devices and connectivity for all pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged, and a plan to ensure that nobody is priced out of the education they are entitled to.

What support should there be for working parents?

Working parents face huge challenges in balancing work, childcare, and supporting children’s education. They must have the support they need to do this.

The government, and employers, must clearly promote the use of the job retention scheme for those who cannot work because of childcare commitments, and emphasise the fact that this can be used on a flexible and part-time basis. Nobody should have to choose between their job and support their children.

Stephen believes that we cannot return to the confusion of the first lockdown, when parents did not know if their child could attend school when most pupils learned remotely. The list of critical workers must be clearly communicated to schools and families.

What would need to happen for schools to reopen?

We cannot enter a period in which schools are closed indefinitely – the consequences for children’s education and wellbeing would be devastating and last for years to come.

While school closures were inevitable to reduce the spread of the virus, we must act to ensure that children are not out of school for months.

That is why Stephen is calling on government to set out a clear plan for getting schools open again, and any period of school closures must be used to get control of the virus and make schools safer.

The government should look at using a rota system after any period of closures, to ensure that children can begin getting back in the classroom safely as soon as possible.