‘Mixed messages cost lives’: Newham MPs react to government’s lockdown exit roadmap

Lyn Brown and Stephen Timms. Picture: MPs' offices

Lyn Brown and Stephen Timms. Picture: MPs' offices - Credit: Archant

The borough’s political leaders have criticised the government after it announced plans to ease England out of lockdown restrictions.

West Ham MP Lyn Brown and East Ham MP Stephen Timms were commenting on plans unveiled by prime minister Boris Johnson which included telling people to return to work if they can.

The strategy includes the slogan, Stay alert, control the virus, save lives.

Ms Brown said: “I am disappointed with the lack of clarity about the changes that are being made to the lockdown. Mixed messages cost lives.

“We know that this virus has had a fundamentally unequal impact so far and has hit black, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and other BAME people much harder than others. Newham has been hit hardest of all.

“Knowing the unequal impact the pandemic has had on areas like ours, it would be unconscionable not to take the strongest action to understand and prevent this impact on our minority ethnic communities happening again if, as I fear, we have a second wave of infections later in the year.”

Ms Brown has written to ministers asking them to investigate why the impact on “wonderfully diverse” communities like Newham’s has been “so appallingly high”.

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On Tuesday, May 12, Ms Brown wrote to the transport secretary, business secretary, and home secretary about the need for a plan for safe ways to travel to work, and enforce the lockdown that remains in place.

“I hope the government’s response improves quickly,” she said.

Mr Timms described the prime minister’s statement on Sunday announcing the changes as “a muddle”.

“[Mr Johnson] said people should start to return to work on Monday, but then changed it to Wednesday. And it’s hard to see how returning to work can be safe when so many will rely on over-crowded public transport,” Mr Timms said.

“I welcome Monday’s announcement that all employers must carry out risk assessments in light of Covid-19, and that firms with over 50 staff must publish the assessments.

“I also welcome the additional funding for the over-stretched Health and Safety Executive. I chaired yesterday’s Work and Pensions Select Committee when senior Health and Safety Executive officials were questioned. Their work will be vital to keep workers safe over the weeks ahead,” he added.

The government described its plan as a “cautious” roadmap to easing existing measures in a “safe and measured” way.

A government spokesman said: “It is subject to successfully controlling the virus and being able to monitor and react to its spread. The roadmap will be kept under review as the epidemic develops.”