South West Tories demand exemption from further lockdown as infections remain low

Conservative MPs across the region claim their constituents should be exempt from any second national lockdown after region suffered UK’s highest job losses hit since pandemic hit

By David Parsley inews.co.uk 

Conservative MPs in the South West of England are calling on Boris Johnson to exempt the region from any future national lockdown as their rural constituencies continue to have the lowest number of Covid-19 infections in the country.

The rural counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset have already been hit hard by lockdown restrictions, suffering the most jobs losses per head in the UK, according to new research.

Conservative MPs – which make up 29 of the 31 Parliamentary seats in the region – from the area told i they were lobbying ministers for a number of concessions on restrictions, including a “regional unlocking” and an exemption from any full lockdown should cases remain low.

Reliance on hospitality hits region’s workers hardest

According to a study of jobless figures from the Office for National Statistics by work tech company Orka, the rate of unemployment has risen fastest in the South West, from 3.1 per cent before the pandemic struck to 3.8 per cent now. The area has the highest concentration of workers in the hardest hit food and hospitality sectors, with one in ten relying on tourist trade for secure employment.

Anne Marie Morris, Conservative MP for Newton Abbot, said: “The South West does need to be treated differently given our low infection rates and the impact of lockdown measures on our economy. “

Christopher Loder, the MP for West Dorset, added his constituents were being punished for those breaking Covid-safe guidance and laws in towns and Cities across the UK.

“The measure taken are probably proportionate across the UK, but in my constituency of West Dorset we have the lowest infection rate in the whole of England and Wales,” said Mr Loder. “We also have one of the highest proportion, some 97 per cent, of micro businesses, with many of those in the hospitality sector. For me it is unthinkable we would face another national lockdown given our economy is so reliant on tourism and we have the lowest number of cases.”

A case for ‘regional unlocking’

Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: “There are questions about whether we could have even more tailored measures for individual counties, like Devon, where cases are lower. I would support that.”

Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, said: “I have been speaking with ministers about looking at regional unlocking as well as regional lockdowns to reflect this as we move into the next phase of the pandemic.”

Seven other Conservative MPs in the region, who asked not to be named, said they were also discussing the idea of exempting their constituents from any future national lockdown with ministers due to the limited spread of the virus in the region.

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