David Duguid writes about Covid-19 & restrictions

David Duguid MP writes about Covid-19 & restrictions in his My Turriff column this week.

It is hard to believe it is six months since people across the UK were told to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Huge sacrifices were made by all of us, and the collective effort was effective in controlling the spread of Covid-19.

Cases were reduced to a manageable level, and here in Scotland, there was even talk from Nicola Sturgeon of “eliminating” the virus altogether.

However, six months on, and we are back to talking about restrictions on our day-to-day lives.

Coronavirus is spreading again, with the rate of cases rising in many parts of the country.

The First Minister has imposed a ban on visiting other households, while pubs and restaurants must close at 10pm.

Nobody wanted to see new restrictions put in place, and I know many people are growing increasingly frustrated with the whole thing.

In England, large parts of the North East, Yorkshire, Merseyside, and the Midlands are already under localised measures including a ban on home visits.

The difference in Scotland is that those measures apply nationwide and not just in locations where there are localised outbreaks.

But we are in a better place now than we were in March.  Workplaces and schools have been made ‘Covid-secure’ and we are not talking about a full national lockdown like we had in the Spring.

But there is no question that the new restrictions are going to impact upon our day-to-day lives.

And all the forecasts suggest that there will be an economic cost in terms of reduced trade and demand for goods and services.

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That is why the Chancellor stepped up again this week with a further package of financial measures to help protect jobs and businesses.

The new Jobs Support Scheme will see the government topping up the wages of staff that are kept in post on reduced hours.

It is unprecedented for any UK Government to subsidise the wages of workers in the private sector.

In addition, Rishi Sunak has extended the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, extended the repayment terms for bounce-back loans for business, deferred tax bills and continued the VAT cut from 20% to 5% for the hospitality and tourism sector until March 31 next year.

As the existing Job Retention (furlough) Scheme winds down, these measures are very welcome.

The Job Support Scheme will allow many employers to retain staff that might otherwise have lost their jobs.

The extension of self-employment support and the VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sector will also come as welcome news for people here in the north-east.

In the last three months, we have seen signs that our economy is starting to recover from the worst of the lockdown. But that recovery remains fragile.

The UK Government is taking the necessary steps to help protect as many jobs and livelihoods as possible.

We need both our governments – in Edinburgh and London – to work together over the coming months to make sure we can get through this crisis and build back better.

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