On Saturday, the Prime Minister called a press conference alongside the chief medical officer and chief scientific advisor to announce news of a new highly transmissible strain of coronavirus that is driving the high rate of infections in London and the South East of England.
Despite repeated assurances that Christmas would proceed with a degree of normality, the Prime Minister announced that in tiers 1-3 three households could now only come together on Christmas Day itself, but where possible families should consider staying apart. There are more details on the precise rules at the link here.
This is grave news, and I know how upsetting it will be for many families who have been forced apart for long and difficult periods of this year. This decision will not have been taken lightly, and on balance I think it is the right thing to do, given what a dangerous moment we find ourselves in the fight against the virus.
Nevertheless, the British public deserved better than this eleventh-hour u-turn. Having berated Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday for suggesting coronavirus case rates warranted a review of the Government’s Christmas proposals, Boris Johnson did as much only days later — dashing many families hopes and plans at the last moment, and causing chaos in the process.
This crisis has shown time and again that making the right decision at the right time is integral to our success. Yet it is a pattern with this Government that repeatedly overpromises and dramatically under-delivers, as if the Prime Minister is too scared to give people the hard news when they need to hear it.
Nevertheless, this announcement is only a sticking plaster, and the Government’s top priority must be accelerating remediation works and ensuring people are safe in their homes. This last minute u-turn amounts to another missed deadline, and is an admission from the Government that it expects many buildings won’t be made safe for some years.
This week, the work I and residents have been doing as part of our Exempt Accommodation Working Group gathered momentum with a series of excellent pieces written by Jane Haynes in the Birmingham Mail.
Recently, I joined residents to visit exempt supported accommodation around Hagley Road that has been the epicentre of a rise in antisocial behaviour and crime.
Along with colleagues across Birmingham, we are demanding tougher regulation of bad landlords who are making millions on the backs of vulnerable people. Not only is this sector the cause of misery in our neighbourhood, it is often an abuse of taxpayers’ money and a honeypot for organised crime.
You can read the first of Jane’s pieces by clicking below.
Earlier this week, I wrote to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab while he was in India, about the ongoing Farmers’ Protests in Delhi. Enabling people to publicly express their views through peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right, and the use of tear gas and water cannons against peaceful protestors is unacceptable. The UK must stand up for democratic freedoms and work with our partners to protect and champion them.
Birmingham residents can now get tested for Covid even if you don’t have symptoms, with the opening of a walk-in facility in the city centre – no appointments needed. A large-scale testing hub site was recently set up at Utilita Arena Birmingham (formerly known as the National Indoor Arena) for mass (lateral flow) testing, which was initially piloted for groups of council frontline staff. You can find out more information here: