‘It is only sensible’ - MPs and council leader call for Norfolk to be placed in lowest tier after lockdown
- Credit: Archant
Two Norfolk MPs and the county council leader have called for Norfolk to be placed in the lowest tier of Covid-19 restrictions once lockdown is over, saying the move would be “only sensible”.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is poised to announce his “Covid winter plan” tomorrow, which will see the government pledge to return the nation to a strengthened tier system, similar to the one prior to the latest national lockdown.
Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, which still numbers among the lowest infection rates in the entire country, has called for the county to return to the lowest tier of restrictions - though at this stage it remains unclear what this will look like.
And Mr Baker, who was elected to the constituency in the December general election, said: “My view is that I am glad we are coming out of a lockdown and going back into localised tiers again. It was always a difficult pill to swallow to enter a national restriction in my constituency but this was predicated on protecting our local hospitals.
“Norfolk remains substantially below the national average of infections and North Norfolk remains with some of the lowest infections in the country. Although we must be mindful of some increases in Norfolk, we must keep following the guidance and in my view it is only sensible that we come out into the lowest tier.”
His view was echoed by North West Norfolk MP James Wild.
He said: “I originally supported the tier system as an alternative to national restrictions, unfortunately we saw rates rise across the country which meant we had to going into a four-week national lockdown. My hope is that we come out on a lower tier. “I want Norfolk to come out under a lower tier, so we will all have to play our part over the next few weeks. “ “We need to get as close to normality as we can, as soon as possible, and going back into a lower tier will help. Although there is financial support, this pre-Christmas peak is a crucial time of year for businesses to earn revenue.”
Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, also said that he saw “no real reason” why Norfolk should not be placed in the same tier it left when the lockdown began at the start of November.
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He said: “While it is all speculation at this stage, from my point of view I see tiering being an ongoing theme in the future, which perhaps may be set as wider areas than just county by county, as the smaller the area the more difficult it becomes to control. For example, when Essex was moved into tier two before lockdown, I suspect you may well have had people hopping over the border to Suffolk for a pint down the pub.
“It is our expectation that Norfolk will be in the lowest tier of restriction, whatever that looks like, and I see no real reason to believe that we should be anything other than there.
“I appreciate there has been some fluctuation in some parts of the county buy as a whole we are still below the national average.”
On his hopes for the festive period he added: “I do not think anyone would ever want to be the prime minister that cancelled Christmas. It will certainly have to be different but I do hope some way is found for people to see their families over the period, I want to see him.
“But whatever the restrictions are, we still need to remember and follow all the advice - hands, face, space and isolate.”
However, other MPs in the region have opted to hold their cards close to their chests ahead of the prime minister’s announcement, which is expected to be made on Monday pending discussions with his cabinet members today.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “We will get the details of the plan tomorrow and we will be able to scrutinise it then, but it was always something the government had indicated they were going to do.
“The issues we need to be looking at are the details of the system and how it differs to what came before it, and the question of what tier does our area go back into.
“People and businesses are looking for a clear roadmap out of the restrictions, and there is understandable concern to keep the virus in check.”
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis refused to comment on the Downing Street announcement until after the prime minister’s formal announcement later this week.
Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, also refused to respond, with a spokesman for the trade secretary saying it would be “premature to comment”.
Norfolk’s other MPs have been approached for comments.