ENTERTAINMENT

Middlesbrough Mayor ANDY PRESTON is implementing local lockdown measures


People in my city are frustrated, angry and dismayed by the government's draconian proposals to impose even stronger local restrictions.

There is nothing compassionate or pragmatic about what Health Secretary Matt Hancock is up to.

It is ill-conceived, illogical and, despite yesterday's government claims, is not based on consultations with councils or local experts.

Throwing people off work and taking away the support of their friends, family, and community is just cruel. People can be seen in Middlesbrough

Fortunately, these plans are not yet in place – and hopefully they will stay that way. Because I know I am speaking on behalf of Middlesbrough when I say we are not currently accepting them.

Of course, stopping the virus from spreading must be the government's priority. However, this must be done with an awareness of the pain isolation can cause and the damage it does to mental and physical health.

For God's sake, above all, we must do everything we can to secure people's livelihoods.

Our ward council went to the government and explained the importance of this. We asked them to work with the community and local businesses to make safe connections and keep Middlesbrough moving. They didn't listen.

It is obvious to me that anyone can visit a relative or friend in their garden and have a cup of coffee while staying far away. And of course we should be able to meet her for a chat in a well-run, socially distant café.

However, these new rules, which in essence prohibit the meeting of different households, prohibit all those safe human activities that are small but so important to well-being.

People are seen shopping in Middlesbrough town center. People in my city are frustrated, angry and dismayed by the government's draconian proposals to impose even stronger local restrictions

People are seen shopping in Middlesbrough town center. People in my city are frustrated, angry and dismayed by the government's draconian proposals to impose even stronger local restrictions

To add to the madness, it's not even clear how the rules are enforced. Like so many growing cities, Middlesbrough is shedding its borders – and neighboring Redcar and Cleveland are not included in the restrictions.

There are two rules for a city and sometimes two rules within a street.

This is bitterly unfair to a community still recovering from the recessions of the 1980s.

I don't like to complain because my parents always said life wasn't fair, but that's no reason to take obviously and unnecessarily unfair measures like these.

Right now is the worst time to forbid people to socialize. Six month long nights and cold weather are on the way.

Throwing people off work and taking away the support of their friends, family, and community is just cruel.

It will drive many people into depression, and I fear that increased suicide rates will be just one of the dire consequences. The point is that it doesn't have to be that way.

It is obvious to me that anyone can visit a relative or friend in their garden and have a cup of coffee while staying far away

It is obvious to me that anyone can visit a relative or friend in their garden and have a cup of coffee while staying far away

After the initial lockdown, our public health experts came up with innovative, workable ideas to keep venues safe and limit the spread of the virus while people can still see each other. But the government appears to have paid no attention to these advances.

The injustice is compounded because Middlesbrough spearheaded tough measures to try to contain the tide during this global crisis. We weren't soft on Covid-19.

As council, we have been active and caring and got things done. We gave out 180,000 free face masks and my team urged hospitality workers to wear them long before it became mandatory. To me it was an obvious preventive measure that was being enforced across much of Europe and we were leading the way.

Yes, I will be reluctant to follow these new rules when they become law, and I will encourage everyone in my town to do so. This is not about lifting two fingers to Downing Street. It's much more important than just a protest.

But before the government makes a terrible mistake and puts these restrictions in place, I ask them to reconsider.

We need a plan to reduce the transmission of the virus while showing compassion and understanding. That's missing.

As council, we have been active and caring and got things done. We've given out 180,000 free face masks and my team urged hospitality workers to wear them long before it became mandatory

As council, we have been active and caring and got things done. We gave out 180,000 free face masks and my team urged hospitality workers to wear them long before it became mandatory