This is a really troubling announcement and I’m extremely disappointed we are at this stage. Since the First Minister’s announcement, my inbox has been flooded with emails from businesses and workers who are now desperately worried about their futures.
The efforts of businesses across Brecon and Radnorshire throughout the pandemic has been a key driver in keeping the virus low in Powys. Pubs, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, play centres, hairdressers, beauticians and shopkeepers have bent over backwards to implement social distancing measures as well as a vigilant hygiene regime and limited capacity. To shut them down – over half term, their biggest chance of recouping some of their losses – because the virus is spreading in South and North East Wales feels extremely unfair.
We are fortunately in Powys to have a relatively low prevalence of COVID-19, in fact yesterday (Monday 19th October) there were only 9 new cases confirmed. This national so-called ‘fire breaker’ is a blunt instrument, which is unfairly penalising individuals and businesses in my constituency due to the spread of COVID-19 elsewhere in Wales.
There is no plan for how this ends – what happens to us on November 9th? I urge the Welsh Government to urgently bring forward its plan for post lockdown. I have serious concerns that once this lockdown ends, the virus will continue to spread, and the Welsh Government will end up introducing a series of rolling national lockdowns. This would shatter the rural economy beyond repair.
The Welsh Government should have focussed on targeted measures, tackling the virus in a hyperlocal fashion using the data which we already have available to us. The evidence from Llanelli shows that this approach was working – the First Minister has gone for the nuclear option far too early.
While I welcome the funding announced yesterday, I do not believe it will be enough to support every business. The Welsh Government needs to quickly spend the money that has been made available to them by the UK Government. They have had over £4 billion in UK taxpayer money – a fair proportion of this needs to go to the hardest hit businesses in Brecon and Radnorshire.
We need a long-term plan to cope with this virus sustainably and for our economic health - not continuous lockdowns in areas with relatively low rates of COVID-19. We cannot hide from this virus for eternity.
As much as I have my concerns, it seems the First Minister is intent on driving this though – even without any scrutiny in the Welsh Parliament. No matter how difficult this is going to be, I know my constituents will pull together and help each other through this. Check on your neighbours, friends and family, look after your mental health and be kind to yourself. Above all, please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of any help: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07515034124.
Fay Jones MP
Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnorshire