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Mayor: Government ignored ‘clear lesson’ that could have saved lives

Written by on 02/11/2020

South Yorkshire metro mayor Dan Jarvis has accused the government of ignoring a “brutally clear lesson” by failing to introduce this week’s coronavirus lockdown sooner and has demanded a bigger role in how the country responds to the emergency.

Mr Jarvis wants metro mayors to be more closely involved in the government’s decision-making process and is also demanding they are represented on COBRA, the emergency planning committee which makes crucial decisions in times of crisis.

Referring to the soaring infection rate and increasing demands on hospitals, he said: “We should not be in this position.

“The government’s own scientific advisors gave clear advice on the need for a lockdown almost six weeks ago, and warned that not acting immediately to reduce cases would have catastrophic consequences.

“If that was not enough, there was a brutally clear lesson from the first wave about the cost of delay both in lives and economic damage.

“The government nonetheless chose not to accept this advice, and real harm will have been done as a consequence.

“However, these restrictions are necessary to save lives and it is right the government has finally acted.

“But now they have been announced, we must make them work, or the sacrifice we are being asked to make will be wasted. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past eight months.

“We need proper support to individuals, businesses and councils, so people can afford to follow the rules and not be driven into destitution if they become unemployed, so we minimise the harm to the economy, and so we can keep essential services running.

“The government must base its decisions on the nature and duration of the restrictions on the best available science, and be crystal clear in its communications.

“Above all, this lockdown must be integrated into a robust, long-term plan to manage the virus. The point of a lockdown is to buy time to strengthen other measures, and especially to fix the test and trace system.

“The government must fully fund local authorities to carry out local test and trace, and get a grip of the outsourced, Serco-run national system.

“The government must do all this in collaboration with local and devolved governments.

“Throughout this crisis I have urged Government to give leaders in the nations and regions the powers and resources we need to protect our people and our economy.

“We are best placed to know what support our communities and businesses need to survive the second wave of the pandemic. Today I am once again calling on the Prime Minister to include Metro Mayors in his decision making, and give them representation on COBRA.”

Mr Jarvis also had a message for the public, which comes after Doncaster’s director of public health and Barnsley Council have both voiced concerns over social distancing rules being ignored.

He said: “Ultimately the success of these measures depends not on government, but on all of us. I understand how just weary and frustrated many people will be. But the last lockdown was effective, and this one can be as well – if we follow the rules.

“For the sake of our families, our communities, and our economy, for a chance of a relatively normal Christmas, we need everyone to do their part. If we squander this opportunity, we risk the country yo-yoing in and out of lockdown, amid a crumbling economy and an overwhelmed NHS.

“I will be pressing the Government for more details in the coming days. In the meantime, I urge the people of South Yorkshire to follow the new rules when they come into force on Thursday.”