Gwynne column: How we emerge from lockdown

In his latest column, Denton MP Andrew Gwynne writes that he's in agreement that the economy needs to begin restarting but outlines three problems he foresees in the process.

In his address to the nation on Sunday, the Prime Minister began to set out the next steps in our fight against coronavirus. A new Covid Alert Level system is going to be put in place. 

Over the course of the lockdown, we have been in Level Four. As we begin to move towards Level Three, it is crucial that we get the balance right between restarting the economy and protecting the population. 

From Wednesday (May 13) onwards, people in England who were unable to work from home were actively encouraged to go back to work. 

There are three main problems I foresee as we begin to restart the economy. 

Firstly, public transport access is going to be limited. Social distancing measures mean that our buses, trains and trams are no longer going to be able to run at full capacity. In an ideal world, those required to work would instead travel by car, by bike or on foot. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world and public transport will still be needed by so many. 

People need to be reassured that travelling to work will not compromise their health. Wearing masks will help with this, but more reassurances from the Government will be needed. 

Secondly, people should only be required to go back to work if their workplace is safe. Safety at this time will come from social distancing measures. Employers should be making reasonable adjustments for their staff before they return to work. 

Thirdly, restarting the economy has not coincided with re-opening schools. Schools should not be re-opening if the science is currently suggesting that doing so would be unsafe. However, people cannot be expected to go back to work without any childcare provisions. Many working adults in this country rely upon their parents for childcare. Shielding measures mean older people are not currently allowed to see their grandchildren, let alone care for them.  

In his address, the Prime Minister also announced a number of confusing new rules that I believe will be near-impossible for the police to enforce. We were told we could meet one person outside our household in a park, but not in our gardens. The reasoning is unclear. 

The address seems to have raised more questions than it has answered. Whilst I agree that we do need to begin restarting our economy, protecting the population must come first. How we protect the population must be made clear.

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