Public health must be the priority but Coronavirus rates in much of Oxfordshire, outside of the city of Oxford, remain low. We would be concerned about the prospect of individuals and businesses in wider Oxfordshire being placed under Tier 2 restrictions on the basis of a problem that appears centred on the student population in Oxford city.
Tier 2 puts tight restrictions on people being able to see friends and family and would have a negative impact on mental health and on our businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector who have already faced significant difficulties due to Coronavirus. While we welcome the Chancellor’s statement today, Tier 2 should not be entered into lightly and without any consideration of the economic or mental health impacts of this action. We would also need a clear exit strategy to ensure any restrictions do not endure indefinitely as they have in other areas.
As Members of Parliament, we could see the case for potentially putting Oxford City into Tier 2. However, in trying to do what is right for our constituents as a whole there was insufficient evidence to make the case for the whole county to be placed into Tier 2 at this stage. Ultimately, the Government – which makes the decision, not MPs - has reviewed the evidence and, based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer and Joint Biosecurity Centre, does not believe that Tier 2 is required for Oxford at this time, never mind for the wider Oxfordshire region as council leaders are proposing. We will of course continue to engage closely with the Government, local leaders and public health chiefs, to ensure that the appropriate measures are taken at the appropriate time for our area.
The experience of other areas serves as a reminder to us all that we must wash our hands regularly, use face coverings and make space to control infection rates in Oxfordshire.
Robert Courts MP for Witney & West Oxfordshire
Victoria Prentis MP for Banbury
John Howell MP for Henley
David Johnston MP for Wantage