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Ashford MP Damian Green calls for district wide lockdown

A Kent MP has called on the government to bring in local-level coronavirus restrictions when the country comes out of lockdown.

Ashford MP Damian Green argued that the public were more likely to obey more localised restrictions.

Boris Johnson was speaking remotely from Downing Street
Boris Johnson was speaking remotely from Downing Street

Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, Mr Green said: "In the spirit of a wise constituent who told me 'If the government introduce stupid rules, we'll stop obeying the sensible ones as well', can I ask [the Prime Minister] that the new teirs be imposed at a local level, districts rather than counties or regions.
"Restrictions which people feel are unfair to their particular community will simply not be respected or obeyed, and this will itself have a negative effect on our long-term health."

The request came following a great deal of uncertainty about whether or not Kent will be placed into the highest tier of restrictions due to infection levels in certain districts.

Swale, and particularly the Isle of Sheppey, is seeing far greater numbers of infections than many of the rest of the county.

Ashford MP Damian Green has been pushing for localised restrictions
Ashford MP Damian Green has been pushing for localised restrictions

Today the borough was named as having the worst infection rate in England, after it overtook Hull with a rate of 631.7 cases per 100,000 people.

The numbers have forced Swale Borough Council to hold a private emergency meeting today to discuss action.

However, the fact that numbers are much lower elsewhere in Kent – which has an average case rate of 288 – has prompted some officials to question the idea of county-wide restrictions.

Kent County Council's Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark, had said previously: "It would make no sense to put enhanced public health measures into a place like Dartford if we see cases rising at the other end of the county."

However, the Prime Minister, speaking remotely from 10 Downing Street, said that restricted areas had to be large enough to have an effect.

"I have every confidence in the wisdom of the British people"

He said: "Alas, the disease is no respecter of borough boundaries.

"We have to have some regions win which to constitute the tiers that are sensible and large enough."

He also disagreed with Mr Green's assertion that county-wide rules would not be followed, arguing that the "heroic efforts" of the public were key to the UK having made progress against the virus during lockdown.

"I have every confidence in the wisdom of the British people to follow sensible guidance and sensible rules," he concluded.

It is still not known whether or not Kent will be put into tier two or tier three restrictions when lockdown is lifted on December 2. For more information about what could happen, click here.

Analysis from our political editor Paul Francis

As with all all announcements concerning the Corona crisis, it is a question of what they do not say as much as what they do that matters.

The headline on the latest plans the government intends to pursue is that there will be no extension to the current lockdown.

Politically and publicly, it is extremely difficult to see how the Prime Minister would have rallied support around such an option.

MPs are as restless as their constituents, who may have reluctantly endured one lockdown and settled grudgingly for a shorter second one but a third would have tested their patience.

The next step is for all areas of the country to be put in to different tiers to reflect their relative condition in terms of infection rates.

That is something which council leaders have misgivings about. Most would prefer to have a tier rating that is based on their own individual local area, rather than be be part of one that is Kent-wide.

The argument runs that within Kent, there are major variations between different councils which should be recognised and reflected by the government when they do determine which tier would be appropriate.

The government will come under huge pressure from councils where infection rates are low and the spread of the infection has been less pronounced.

But doing so would potentially be as unfair as placing the county in one particular tier and policing it would be a bureaucratic nightmare. They may have to but we will have to wait.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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