The news this week that some Coronavirus lockdown restrictions will continue past the 21st June will not have come as a surprise to many people – but that does not make it any less disappointing or frustrating. Cases of the Delta variant have been spreading rapidly in the past few weeks, and here in Bristol we have seen infections hit levels not seen since February, resulting in recent school closures. Delaying opening will give our amazing NHS vaccinators the chance to get more jabs in arms – which is especially important given we now know our vaccines are effective against this variant.
However, it’s important to recognise that the situation we are now in with the Delta variant was in no way inevitable. It is a direct result of Boris Johnson’s incompetence and his failure to take the hard decisions necessary to keep variants like this out of the UK. He failed to secure our borders, and refused to put India on the red list because he didn’t want to cancel his visit to the country. Figures suggest that at least 20,000 passengers who could have been infected with Delta arrived in the UK from India between 2nd and 23rd April – that is simply staggering. Of course, no one is blaming those people who travelled when they were permitted to do so – the fault lies squarely with the Prime Minister for his failure to take the necessary steps to protect us all.
Now that the delay in the lifting of restrictions has been announced, it is vital that the Government steps up with the requisite financial support for those businesses that are still unable to reopen fully. This news will have been particularly devastating for those working in the arts industry, with many live music venues and theatres now having been closed for more than a year. Continuing social distancing measures mean many hospitality venues will also struggle to turn a profit, or to recoup any of their losses from last year. An additional month of restrictions without any additional support could have serious consequences. And those consequences will be more than purely financial. The ongoing uncertainty affecting employers and employees alike in these sectors will clearly have a detrimental effect on their mental health.
Here in Bristol and across the country, people have done everything asked of them during this pandemic. They have obeyed the guidance, they have protected our NHS, and they have turned out in droves for their vaccinations – but once again, they have been let down by the incompetence of the Prime Minister. Now more than ever, Boris Johnson and his Government must step up and provide the requisite support to ensure that everyone makes it through the next month.