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Councillors in Diss split over easing of Covid restrictions

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The Prime Minister’s announcement that all Covid restrictions will be lifted this month has been welcomed by members of his own party across the Diss Express area, while opponents have described the decision as “overambitious” and “too much, too soon”.

Last week, it was announced that regulations on social distancing, indoor gatherings and compulsory mask wearing will be removed from July 19. Currently, there is still a one-metre rule on social distancing, while only groups of six are allowed to meet indoors.

While the relaxation of many of these rules was welcomed across the board, the decision to end compulsory mask wearing proved to be much more contentious.

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that almost all Covid restrictions would be lifted on July 19.
Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that almost all Covid restrictions would be lifted on July 19.

Keith Kiddie, the Conservative who serves as county councillor for Diss and Roydon, said: “I think that the sooner we get back to normality, the better.

“Given that almost everybody that can has been vaccinated, we owe it to the young people to get the economy going.

“The business about giving people personal choice on whether way wear mask makes sense.

Diss and Roydon Councillor Keith Kiddie has welcomed the easing of restrictions.
Diss and Roydon Councillor Keith Kiddie has welcomed the easing of restrictions.

“There are some places where you may choose to wear a mask, but it’s good for people to have that personal choice and liberty.

“We have to get things like the hospitality sector going again, because that’s where the young people work, and we need people in work because that’s the only way we can get the economy moving and to pay for our NHS.”

David Vail, who ran as the Labour candidate for Long Stratton during the local elections back in May, said that he generally supported the relaxations, with the exception of face masks.

“I’m generally in support of easing restrictions,” he said. “But I would still be keen to see mask wearing on public transport and in confined spaces.

“There are a lot of vulnerable people who are concerned; it would make them feel more comfortable.”

His sentiments where echoed by John Field, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Mid Suffolk, who said: “We can’t keep the current lockdown forever, but I think it’s something we need to do with some caution.

“I feel we are being overambitious – masks in public transport are not a great imposition on people, and they do reduce risk.

“We have to be careful. I would be more cautious and make sure people understood what spreads the virus. We don’t know about the possibility of new variants appearing if we let the amount of infections rise.”

The most ardent opposition to the Government’s plans came from Andrew Stringer, a Green Party councillor for Mid Suffolk and the first councillor from his party to hold as seat in the county.

He said: “We have serious concerns about this. We are jumping too early – the Government has done this before and regretted it.

“We all want to see an end to restrictions but this might be too much, too soon. In another few weeks, we could be getting there, but the NHS confederation has said it is concerned about this and so are we.”

Despite the success of the vaccination programme, coronavirus case rates continue to rise, both locally and nationally.

Across the UK, 192,902 people tested positive for virus in the week leading up to July 7 – a rise of 42.8 per cent on the week prior.

Locally, this rise is even higher; in mid Suffolk, 77 people tested positive in the same time period – 51 per cent more than the week prior; in south Norfolk, the number of cases has doubled – from 62 to 124.

Deaths and hospitalisations are also on the rise across the UK, however, nobody has died in either south Norfolk or mid Suffolk from the virus in the past 28 days.

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