Adur District Council chairman reflects on a year since the first lockdown

A year after the first lockdown was announced, the chairman of Adur District Council, Andy McGregor, urges the country to work together to avoid lockdown four.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 3:28 pm
Councillor Andy McGregor, chairman of Adur District Council

“A year after the UK went into its first lockdown, the country is midway through its third.

“Unfortunately, I believe this has been a year characterised by accusations of indecisiveness and missteps that have left Britain with one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world.

“Should we have locked down a week earlier than we did last March?

“Or gone into the second lockdown a week earlier? Or put a complete stop to plans mixing of households at Christmas after the new, more infectious, B117 variant had emerged?

“Or brought in national restrictions before 4th January?

“All my scientific training in immunology, vaccination research, epidemiology and medicine says we should have done so.

“However, as a politician I believe we had to balance the scientific advice with the need to keep the country running and allow people to have some semblance of a normal life as much as possible.

“As the country begins to emerge from this latest set of restrictions, there are many lessons we should learn from this chastening pandemic experience, to avoid repeating the same mistakes again.

“Of course it’s easy to say the best time to act was in the past. However, the second-best time is now.

“I do wonder if the Government’s reluctance to implement lockdown soon was due to a distrust of the public to comply with the new rules.

“When the rules were introduced there was well publicised evidence that this could have been true.

“People were flouting the rules.

“At one meeting with Sussex police I was told that many of those being fined for breaking lockdown rules were repeat offenders.

“However, the vast majority stayed at home and did what they were advice. And the famous R number dropped below 1 - which allowed us to come out of the first lockdown.

“There’s always going to be a loud mouthed group. And this pandemic has shown them up with their pandemic and vaccination denial.

“A well-publicised rule breaking party in Worthing showed how many people can get infected when people broke the rules.

“But still that ignorant minority persist with the pseudo-scientific nonsense!

“As we have seen in Australia and New Zealand, infection control measures can work and the vast majority of the public will have the good sense to take the right precautions.

“Unfortunately, here in the UK the instruction to “stay at home” was undermined by the now-infamous trip by Dominic Cummings, driving 60 miles to Barnard Castle to check he was well enough to drive.

“Some people used this as an excuse to follow his example and break the rules.

“As we saw when our Prime Minister was infected with COVID-19, the virus does not respect rank, riches or those who believe they are above the rules.

“As the pandemic has continued the Government have learned lessons.

“The message is now much clearer and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But only through vaccination.

“And Britain is leading the World with their fabulous vaccination programme.

“If enough of the population deny vaccination we will not achieve herd immunity and there will need to be infection control measures in place for much, much longer.

“As a former Boy Scout I think the most important lesson we can take as we emerge from this pandemic is “Be Prepared”.

“We were not prepared for this pandemic.

“In 2016, NHS England undertook Exercise Cygnus to investigate our preparedness for a pandemic.

“One of the conclusions of this exercise was that there needed to be more equipment. Especially more ventilators.

“We need to be better prepared for the next pandemic.

“We need this third lockdown to be our last. What we can do is make sure we accept vaccination when it is offered.

“COVID-19 will spread, unchecked, through a partially vaccinated population.

“And that risks the emergence of new vaccine-resistant variants.

“For now we need to follow the rules in the roadmap out of lockdown.

“And the government need to make sure that the virus in under control before we move to the next stage.

“If we all work together we can avoid lockdown four.”