Christopher Whiteside MBE is Conservative County Councillor for the Egremont North and St Bees Division of Cumbria County Council. The division includes St Bees, Bigrigg, Wood End, Moor Row, part of the Mirehouse area of Whitehaven, and surrounding countryside.
He is also deputy chair (political and campaigning) of the North-West region of the voluntary wing of the Conservative party.
Chris lives and works in Copeland with his wife and family.
Tuesday, January 05, 2021
Last night the Prime Minister addressed the nation, announcing a national lockdown, as he asked the British public to once again: stay at home, control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.
While there is no doubt that in fighting the old variant of the virus, our collective efforts were working and would have continued to work, we now face a new variant of the virus – which is spreading at an alarming speed. It is clear that we all need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.
You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials.
You should work from home unless you absolutely cannot.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, the government is advising you to begin shielding again.
This decision was not taken lightly and follows a rapid rise in infections, hospital admissions and case rates across the country, attributed to the new variant of COVID-19. This has put our hospitals under more pressure now than they have been at any other point throughout the pandemic.
With the UK’s Chief Medical Officers advising that the country should move to alert level 5 - meaning that if action is not taken NHS capacity may be overwhelmed within 21 days – it is clear that these measures are now essential. Parliament has been recalled to debate these measures tomorrow, with these new restrictions due to be formally reviewed on 15th February.
Now more than ever, we must pull together following the new rules. The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but we really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle. Because with every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people.
From today, primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across England are closed except for children of critical workers and the most vulnerable, as one of our latest measures to slow the spread of the virus.
Although schools are safe for children - with children still very unlikely to be severely affected by even the new variant of Covid - schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households. It is for this reason we must take the difficult decision to close schools as we control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.
From this morning:
Primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across England must move to remote provision, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
Extra support will be provided to ensure that pupils entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them while schools are closed.
More devices will be distributed to support remote education
The government recognise that this will mean it is not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal. The Education Secretary will work with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements.
Teachers, governors, national and local government, local authorities, have been making enormous efforts to keep schools open, because we all know how important each day in education is to children’s life chances. However, with the rapid rise in cases and the increasing pressure on our NHS, we now have to do everything we possibly can to stop the spread of the disease, protect the NHS and save lives.