In response to the Prime Minister’s announcement of a roadmap to easing COVID restrictions, Mayor Dan Jarvis said: “COVID has been tearing the heart and soul out of our communities for almost a year.
“After so long of course it is good to see the light at the end of the tunnel get that bit closer, with the Prime Minister’s announcement of a timetable for the easing of lockdown. Despite all the pain COVID lockdowns have caused, it is critical that any easing be done based on solid science and at a cautious pace.
“I understand the pressure to go further and faster, but the lesson is clear that restraint will both save lives – and ultimately let us relax restrictions faster. This must be the last lockdown.
“However, what’s worrying about today’s roadmap is that the Prime Minister again failed to set out the support we need for our businesses and our communities to survive not just the slow return to normality, but the deep disruption to the economy which will persist well beyond the pandemic. The Chancellor must put this right at the Budget.
“In the short term we need an extension of the furlough scheme, action to address business debt, and an extension of the business rates holiday and VAT cut for hospitality, retail and leisure for at least 6 months. In the longer term, we need a rebuilding that does more than get us back to the status quo – but tackles our deeply unequal society and helps build a stronger, greener and fairer UK.
“It is no coincidence that COVID has hit the most deprived areas of our country hardest, including places like South Yorkshire where people cannot afford to lose income and cannot work from home so easily. Dido Harding has estimated 20,000 people a day were failing to isolate when they should. Proper isolation payments can help cut that number, but in England only 30% of people who apply for them get them.
“Payments should be increased above £500 and the criteria extended to include more people. The planned easing only reinforces the importance of getting a grip on the same supporting measures which we’ve been raising again and again throughout this pandemic, and which the government has consistently mishandled. We have to get test and trace right, we have to extend furlough, and we have to make sure people are not forced to choose between financial survival and isolating themselves if they have symptoms. That’s not just basic fairness – it’s in everyone’s interests. “