We are entering a new phase in our efforts to overcome the Coronavirus. The Government have introduced a three-tier alert system to identify risk levels in each local authority area and new restrictions for those areas of greatest risk. Following extensive discussions with Ministers, local council leaders and I have agreed with Government that South Yorkshire will move into Tier 3, the ‘Very High’ alert level for Coronavirus restrictions. The restrictions will come into force from 00:01 on Saturday 24 October and cover all four local authority areas – Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.
As your local MP and as the South Yorkshire Mayor I have been working flat out with our local councils, our Directors of Public Health, the NHS, Public Health England, Government Ministers and Number 10 to ensure that Barnsley and South Yorkshire have the resources and tools at our disposal to respond to this crisis.
I’ve repeatedly called on the Government to provide a local lockdown lifeline for our local authorities and economy, and the new restrictions will be introduced alongside resources which mean we are better equipped to control the virus and limit some of the damage on jobs and businesses. We’ve secured £41 million in new funding – including £11 million to be invested into local Test and Trace – to support workers, businesses and sectors that are struggling to weather the storm of the pandemic. This funding is by no means a silver bullet for our businesses, but it helps our Local Authorities to support the economy, protect those in need and play a vital role in stopping the spread of the virus.
I know that this decision won’t please everyone. There are those who say that this virus is no more serious than the flu, or that we should lock away the elderly and vulnerable and let everyone else get on with their lives. Such a course of action would be profoundly irresponsible and strike against our values of solidarity, community and looking out for each other. I know this won’t be easy, and hard days lie ahead, but this is the responsible route to ensure that we save lives and livelihoods, and protect our NHS. More older people are contracting the virus. The number of people with COVID in our hospitals has doubled over the last ten days, with no signs this will relent over the coming weeks. Inaction was simply not an option.
I would like to pay tribute to the more than 40,000 people across the country – including the hundreds here in South Yorkshire – who have lost their lives to this horrible disease and extend my deepest sympathies to their families, friends and loved ones. Every death represents a family in mourning and a community devastated. I’d also like to offer my heartfelt gratitude to those front-line workers – the doctors, nurses, social care workers and support staff; the retail, transport and postal workers; the staff in our Local Authorities delivering vital services, to name just a few – who are working flat out to protect our most vulnerable and keep our communities going. Thank you.
Every home in Britain has been touched by the Coronavirus. Whether through losing a relative, serving as a key worker, or enduring profound disruption to everyday life. We will overcome this virus, together, by maintaining our collective resolve, continuing to follow the advice and taking every measure to contain this disease. Lives depend upon it.
This article was originally published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 23 October 2020