For people who are aware of the religious focus that is part of the preparation towards Christmas yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. Tomorrow will be an important day for some additional people as the first day of the 24 days before Christmas begins. Indeed, anyone with an Advent calendar can open the first door for this year. Equally if there has been any Advent Beach Hut planned, we may get a chance to see the first of the open huts tomorrow. The following day which will be day two of the 24 days before Christmas, our nation irrespective of our views or traditions at this time of year will come to the end of our national restrictions regarding COVID-19. We will then get back into the more challenging territory for all of us and all other people when everyone in the nation will come into one of a three tier set of options. As things stand it is our Government that sets out the criteria for each of the tiers and they also determine which areas are under the three tiers, but the pressure on understanding the resolving issues clearly becomes much more local.
Clearly some people are very pleased that the national lockdown has ended from a philosophical or political point of view. One of these is Julia Hartley-Brewer who on Thursday was tweeting to suggest that
If you backed the second lockdown despite all the evidence that it would trash the economy & cost more lives than it saves, then DON’T YOU DARE complain about cuts to foreign aid, no pay rises, millions of lost jobs, huge debt & the inevitable future tax rises. YOU OWN IT ALL.
So presumably she and the people who support her will now be applauding that the lockdown has ended. However, the fact is that all areas across our nation are now being set out by the Government regarding which tier they will be treated as. Inevitably there are a wide range of geographical cases that seem to have been very inconsistently decided upon. Inevitably these and many others will now absorb a great deal of energy from those of us who spend time on social media. Of course, there are alternative approaches that could be adopted by each of us and just as importantly by our Councils and MPs.
Here in the South of England, many of us are in Tier 2 which is the middle of the current arrangements. Clearly for people in West Devon, to look into Cornwall which is Tier 1 must be hard, as their land is adjacent and the living conditions are identical. It is slightly different for people in Hampshire looking across the Solent but no doubt some people will be upset that the Isle of Wight is at tier 1 and they are in tier 2. By the same token for the people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire to look over into Bath or other parts of their Counties when they are in tier 3 and their neighbours are tier 2 must be even more difficult. The same is true closer to us in Kent whose County is all currently in tier 3 and they can look over their borders into East Sussex, London or Surrey and they are all in tier 2. That would mean that people in the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells who look over to Crowborough and people who enjoy travelling on the Kent and East Sussex Railway will all be very disappointed.
There are now some significant challenges for our nation at regional or local levels to begin to address. We can ignore opinionated journalists like Hartley-Brewer who don’t understand the real challenges and our MPs and Council Leaders must begin to work together in a way that might start to influence our Government. Last week one East Sussex MP raised concerns that have previously been spoken about by her neighbouring MPs that East Sussex is less impacted by COVID than other parts of Sussex. It is certainly clear that the Coast of West Sussex along with Brighton and Hove are facing greater numbers than the rest of Sussex. However, we need a meaningful approach that will adopt a credible geography and will avoid unnecessary conflict. Although some MPs may want their parts of Sussex to be placed into Tier 1, we need to strengthen links with neighbouring communities and accept that all of Sussex must work together so that we can improve our health provisions. We also need to pay attention to our neighbours in Kent as well as Surrey and Hampshire. Indeed, if these opportunities to coordinate ideas and help shape activity on a theme like COVID could then be applied to other themes, our region could begin to emerge in an effective way!