Tory MP: Many businesses will 'never reopen' if second national lockdown

20 September 2020, 11:22 | Updated: 20 September 2020, 12:02

By Joe Cook

Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has told Swarbrick on Sunday he fears if businesses have to close for a second time because of a rise in Covid-19 cases, “many of them will never reopen”.

Sir Geoffrey called on the Government to continue with local lockdowns, rather than implementing a second national lockdown, which would significantly harm the economy.

But the Treasurer of the 1922 Committee told Tom: “If we shut down the whole economy - and bearing in mind I was one of the first people to call for us to come out of lockdown, because of the economic situation, because of businesses, because of jobs - we really have to be careful about that.”

His intervention comes as reports suggest Number 10 could introduce a so-called "circuit break" across the UK in October, implementing a two week national lockdown to slow the second wave that Boris Johnson has conceded is now hitting the country.

While acknowledging the country is in “a very grave moment in the present situation”, Sir Geoffrey told LBC: “We do know a lot more about this disease than when we first locked down.

“I think the intelligent way to go forward is to have a really strong area-by-area approach.

“Areas like the South West, which at the moment mostly we don’t have a very high incidence, it would be crazy to shut us down, because tourists, businesses are just beginning to reopen and if they are shut down again my fear is that many of them will never reopen.”

Some have looked to Sweden, where no national lockdown was enforced and shops, bars, restaurants were allowed to remain open. The Nordic nation has a fortnightly case rate of just 22.2 per 100,000, compared to 279 in Spain, 158.5 in France, 118 in the Czech Republic, 77 in Belgium and 59 in the UK.

However, former Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Sir David King, told Tom that without a functioning testing system in the UK cases would continue to rise.

“The background to this is our testing and trace system has broken down completely”, Sir David said, “if this continues, the only possibility is, I’m afraid, a second lockdown.”

Sir David blamed the testing problems on “the decision to go to private companies that had no experience in healthcare”, saying this move “was simply wrong”.

“In the middle of a crisis, a pandemic, the worst we have had for a 100 years, we start creating new companies to attempt to deal with the crisis at a very high level.

“We couldn’t manage that and that has been proved over the last six months. We are rattling away at a process that has been proved to fail.”

The testing system “has to be rebuilt based on tried and tested local national health service and public health structures”, the former Chief Scientific Advisor said.

“These are already in place, it splits the job up down to every local GP and that becomes a doable scale. If we continue to operate through newly formed companies that are operating at a distance, it will not work. That has been tested and it has failed.”

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