Hilary Benn - Member of Parliament for Leeds Central
Many constituents have been in touch with me about the new Covid lockdown and gyms.
I completely understand the concern and indeed anguish that the closure of gyms is causing many people for whom physical exercise is of great comfort and support, especially in current circumstances. I also know from many of the emails I’ve had from constituents, just how much the prospect of another lockdown is weighing on people’s minds and has implications for our mental health and for the future viability of gyms given the very difficult economic circumstances.
I know that questions have been asked about the extent to which going to the gym may spread the virus. The science on all of this is imperfect and I don’t think we will ever get to understand the precise contribution of each activity to the pandemic. But a basic truth holds – namely that the more contacts we have in the course of a day, the greater the risk that the virus will be passed from one person to another and on to those we live with. Therefore, society must decide which contacts are going to be restricted while allowing certain activities – like children attending school – to continue. In the current circumstances, where we are losing control of the virus, some activities are going to have to be subject to the lockdown.
Before the vote on the 4th of November, I attended a briefing for MPs. The essential justification, which the Government has accepted, is that unless we take this action to reduce the growth in infections and hopefully turn the curve down again then we will reach a point where the NHS is no longer able to provide services to all of us who need medical care. Back in the spring, a huge amount of ordinary NHS work and elective surgery was stopped in order to provide capacity in our hospitals for Covid patients. Over the summer and the autumn, hospitals have tried very hard to restore these services and they want to be able to keep them going because we all understand that focusing hospital capacity just on Covid patients to save lives may have the consequence of other people losing their lives because they don’t get the treatment or surgery they require.
This is a very difficult decision and the reason why I voted in favour of the lockdown is that I am persuaded that this is an essential step that we must take to protect the NHS and to save lives. You will also have no doubt seen that the same steps are being taken in many other countries where the second spike is well underway.
Having said all that, I look forward to gyms being able to reopen as soon as possible not least because they mean so much to so many of my constituents.
MP for Leeds Central