Duncan Baker: The four reasons that make it time for a cautious unlocking

Should masks become optional on July 19?

Duncan Baker has said it's time for a cautious unlocking of restrictions - Credit: Archant 2020

Remember the January 4, 2021?

That was the date just after Christmas when the prime minister addressed the nation and we moved into another national lockdown.

Did any of us think that it would be nearly seven months later before many of our freedoms would come back to us?

I wrote in this paper just last month about how I wanted us to re-open. But that was before we had the level of vaccinations we now have.

In just four weeks we have administered a further 7 million jabs, taking us to 90% of the population having at least one jab and two-thirds having two jabs.

Since January 4, we have administered in the region of 80 million jabs and in doing so severely weakened the link between infection, hospitalisation and deaths.

That link weakened by up to 96%. More vaccinations per capita than any other large nation is a truly fantastic achievement we should be rightly proud of.

John Guttridge, from Wacton, having his COVID-19 vaccination at the Castle Quarter Vaccination Centr

Thousands of people in North Norfolk have received the coronavirus vaccine - Credit: Danielle Booden

However, that achievement is on a par with my constituents’ diligence, compassion and hard-work, over the past 15 months.

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What unlocking is really about, is making sure that families see each other once again. It’s about making sure that our businesses are given a fair chance, as they work to rebuild after the restrictions rendered by the pandemic have left them without – or with limited – custom.

It’s about feeling ourselves again. Having those small experiences that I know are so important to us in North Norfolk. An area that probably appreciates the relational, perhaps more than most.

There are four principal reasons, all interplaying with one another, that cause me to believe in both the safety and necessity of our unlocking.

Firstly, we’ve got one of the highest numbers of vaccinated people in the UK.

Secondly, we have an electorate that’s shown themselves more than capable of following the rules.

Thirdly, there are all manner of economic, social and well-being reasons, which absolutely necessitate for us to open up.

And finally, that link between infections, hospitalisations and death, has been severely weakened.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker. Picture: Supplied by Duncan Baker

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker - Credit: Duncan Baker

Now I am aware that many may be concerned about the non-obligatory wearing of masks.

My response to this has always been about the clarity of the guidance and that is what I outlined to the government. Make clear what is expected, so people can continue to go about their daily lives with confidence, knowing what is required of them.

The government has done this, there is clear guidance on where to wear a mask and I am confident that those in the constituency, will continue to operate with the compassion that they have shown already.

Respecting one another, taking sensible precautions and using personal responsibility, a notion so many of us were brought up with.

Quiet Cromer during the first weekend of the second lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Quiet Cromer during the first weekend of the second lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Equally, I do believe that the new Health Secretary is right when he said, ‘if not now, when?’ This next step will always cause concern.

But the benefits are untold. Relationships are so important to our social, emotional and mental health and unlocking will improve the lives of many.

I’ve been campaigning and working in our wonderful communities to improve the blanket of support offered to those with mental health needs.

Whether it be while working with the Men’s Shed, Cromer Hospital or the Treasury, I’ve seen the effects of lockdown, on the health of so many. We now need to unlock to raise people’s overall wellbeing.

I wrote in one of my earlier pieces for this column, that North Norfolk will bounce back. We absolutely will.

We’ve seen the 2021 Budget provide a huge amount of support to our area and now we need an open society, in order for us to properly capitalise on this investment.

It isn’t without risk opening up, but if we take this step sensibly together, treating one another with respect, now is the right time.