‘We should not be in this position’ – Sheffield City Region Mayor slams Government's Covid response

The Government’s inability to get a grip on the coronavirus crisis made the new nationwide lockdown announced at the weekend by Prime Minister Boris Johnson almost inevitable, Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis has said.

Sunday, 1st November 2020, 6:34 pm

In a televised address on Saturday, Mr Johnson announced that England will once again enter a full lockdown on Thursday, November 5, abandoning the system of regional tiers just days after the whole of South Yorkshire was reclassified as a very high risk area.

In response, Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis said the decision - while necessary - was a direct consequence of the Government’s failure to listen to its own scientific experts who advised them to impose a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown in September.

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.

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Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis speaks to the media as South Yorkshire moves into Tier 3 lockdown. Picture: Chris Etchells

"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.”

Mr Jarvis also called on the Government to provide more super for those affected by the new restrictions, which include the closure of all non-essential shops, pubs, bars and restaurants and a new stay at home instruction covering everything other than essential travel and exercise.

He said: "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.”

And the Mayor repeated his call for the devolved administrations of the UK including the Sheffield City Region to be brought into the decision-making process.

He said: “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.

"But 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."

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.