Julian lobbies Boris Johnson on easing York covid restrictions in December and local 15-minute mass testing at PMQs
November 11, 2020
Today, at Prime Minister’s Questions, Julian pressed Boris Johnson on the importance of York returning to the lowest tier 1 level (medium alert) of restrictions when the renewed national lockdown expires on 2nd December in line with the fall in the virus locally, and asked him to call on City of York Council to accept the government’s provision of mass rapid lateral flow testing.
Prior to the new national restrictions, York was put tier 2 (high alert) from 17th October. Tier 2 (high alert) is the next level up from the tier 1 norm, and is meant to reduce household-to-household transmission, with all indoor mixing between different households prohibited, with an obvious significant impact on social and business activity.
Yesterday, the Health Secretary announced a national roll-out of new quick ‘lateral flow’ tests, which can give a result in under 15 minutes, allowing the virus to be more effectively targeted, and reducing the need for restrictions. These tests are now available to all local authorities that wish to use them to control the virus locally, at a rate of 10% of local population per week, with an initial 600,000 quick tests being sent to 67 local authorities who expressed interest as a first step.
Following the announcement, Julian checked in with York’s director of public health about York not participating in this first wave of rapid local mass testing.
In the House of Commons, Julian asked: “With yesterday’s positive news on the covid vaccine and the roll-out of mass testing, and as York’s virus figures continue to fall well below the level at which we were put into tier 2, can the Prime Minister give York some hope to sustain our great city, by clearly outlining the criteria under which we can escape immediately into tier 1 from the 2nd of December? And will he also urge York Council to take up the government’s offer of mass testing?”
The Prime Minister responded: “I urge York Council and councils across the land to take up this offer of mass lateral flow testing. I think it’s a very, very exciting possibility….it’s one of the boxing gloves we seek to wield to pummel this disease into submission, the other is the prospect of a vaccine, and that is what we will do continuously throughout the weeks and months ahead.
But I must stress that the way to get ourselves in the best position to achieve that is to make these current restrictions work, so we can come out well, back into the tiers on December 2nd.”
After leaving the Commons, Julian said: “As someone who only voted reluctantly for this month’s renewed lockdown on the basis it was a strictly time-limited measure, I thought it was essential to tell the Prime Minister that York must return to the relative normality of tier 1 when the new national restrictions expire next month.
York residents have made serious sacrifices to get our virus rate significantly below where it was when we were escalated from tier 1 to 2 pre-new lockdown, and the government has to demonstrate that the community’s resilience and self-denial will be rewarded. Our local economy also cannot afford a renewed period of tier 2 limbo, with the household mixing ban devastating trade.
I also hope our city’s public health team heed the Prime Minister’s words, and proceed rapidly with their plans to introduce 15-minute lateral flow tests into York. I appreciate the huge effort they are already putting in, but the opportunity to return towards normality offered by quick localised mass testing has to be seized with both hands.”