As East Devon MP Simon Jupp goes full ostrich in the face of the Omicron wave, my new column for the Midweek Herald and Sidmouth Herald challenges the sheer irresponsibility of his and other Tories’ opposition to even the minimal Plan B proposed by the government:
“If the rapidly escalating Omicron wave of Covid puts the country into some kind of lockdown by New Year, please remember to blame the knee-jerk responses of backbench Tories like Simon Jupp as well as the weakness of Boris Johnson and his action plan.
Within hours the East Devon MP tweeted, ‘I don’t support Plan B. … I won’t vote for these measures.’ Perhaps Mr Jupp would like pop down to the RD&E to explain in person to patients queuing in ambulances? To the ambulance staff, prevented from doing their job and getting to other patients on time? To those whose operations have been postponed over and over again, now looking at even longer waits? To exhausted hospital staff, now facing a new surge of Covid patients on top of everything else? To those whose relatives have died because of delayed treatment?
I’m sure that Mr Jupp will be able to convince them that because ‘working from home won’t help our social or economic recovery’, as he claimed on Twitter, he is right to try to stop this proven method of slowing infections. Mind you, if they don’t agree with him, and take to Twitter themselves to express their views, they’ll find that Mr Jupp has blocked them from replying to him.
Mr Jupp believes that ‘Plan B will cost jobs in many sectors, including hospitality’. He doesn’t even seem to have read the small print, which excludes pubs and restaurants from the requirement to wear masks. In fact, it’s almost certain that limited protective measures like working from home and masking in shops and public transport – which might have been sufficient to reduce the high levels of infection that we already had before Omicron hit – will not now be enough. This weak, discredited government, overly scared of backbenchers like Mr Jupp, is setting itself up for another massive U-turn by yet again doing too little and too late.
There is no excuse for Mr Jupp’s ignorance. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but he doesn’t seem to be looking at the evidence, or learning from experience. Even after three difficult lockdowns, he still hasn’t grasped that letting the virus rip is only a recipe for another lockdown down the line. He hasn’t understood that, far from blocking economic recovery, measures like home-working, mask-wearing and requiring people to be vaccinated or tested before entering public spaces are the only way to let normal economic life carry on in a pandemic.
Sadly, even before Omicron, the government’s protective measures were too little. It would not have harmed the economy to require masks and install ventilation filters in schools – it would have protected education. But by refusing to slow the schools epidemic this autumn, the government ensured that the UK continued to have a very high level of Covid transmission, feeding through into consistently high levels of hospitalisations and deaths. Where was Mr Jupp’s protest about that?
It’s not just that our hypocritical prime minister has been listening to his ill-informed backbenchers. They in turn are in thrall to the anti-vax warriors, the anti-maskers and the people who call entry requirements ‘vaccine passports’, which Mr Jupp says are ‘divisive and discriminatory’. So, we should simply allow unprotected and potentially infected people into every crowded space?
When more than 1 person in 40 in East Devon has Covid – more in younger age groups – this is a recipe for disaster. I have news for Mr Jupp. With our boosters, many of us were just beginning to feel safer, and going again into the very pubs and restaurants which seem to be the only part of our local economy that he cares about. But unless the government halts the Omicron wave, those who care about their health and the state of the NHS will vote with their feet once more. Protect our health – or you won’t have an economic recovery to talk about.”