'We need to keep the town centre open': Northampton council leader 'horrified' by prospect of another lockdown

Jonathan Nunn also urges anyone tempted not to self-isolate due to testing issues to reconsider
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Northampton Borough Council's leader expressed his horror at the notion of the town centre being put under lockdown again due to the emotional and economic damage it would cause.

Jonathan Nunn sympathised with the public's frustration at the lack of tests available but insisted the government is being urged to 'pull out all of the stops' to address the issue.

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During a virtual press conference this afternoon (Friday, September 18), the Conservative councillor also urged anyone tempted not to self-isolate because of the problems with getting a test to reconsider for the greater good.

Northampton Borough Council leader Jonathan Nunn during today's virtual press conferenceNorthampton Borough Council leader Jonathan Nunn during today's virtual press conference
Northampton Borough Council leader Jonathan Nunn during today's virtual press conference

Cllr Nunn said: "Please don't be tempted, what a temptation it is if you feel you have got to self isolate but you can't get a test but have work to do, I can imagine the temptation.

"But the urge from us all here would be for people to please stick with it, please do your best to get a test but don't go back to normal life because you can't get a test as we're doing our best to get more capacity."

Northamptonshire's coronavirus infection rate is now below the average for England but this is mainly due to the national figure rising rather than the county's falling.

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Cllr Nunn said this was a 'shame' and shows there is still more to be done to bring the infection rate down, having been on Public Health England's watch list since late July.

Northamptonshire County Council public health consultant Rhosyn Harris during the virtual press conferenceNorthamptonshire County Council public health consultant Rhosyn Harris during the virtual press conference
Northamptonshire County Council public health consultant Rhosyn Harris during the virtual press conference

But the council leader was optimistic about the impact individuals have had on controlling the virus by largely following the national guidance and specific measures.

"Regulations have eased so people are moving around more and living their lives in a normal way again and that's worrying," he said.

"So the damage to our economy from more restrictions should they come is also worrying but health has to come first.

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"We have showed the rest of the country what can be done but we need to keep the town centre open as it makes me ill to think about that as I know the devastating damage that would do."

A short period of tougher rules is reportedly being considered by the government to address the rising infection rate while more local lockdowns have been imposed in Wales and the North East.

Cllr Nunn said he was 'horrified by the idea of further restrictions on people's lives and the economy' as people 'feel they deserve the right to miss with others, especially in pubs and bars'.

When asked about the 'circuit breaker' proposal, Northamptonshire County Council public health consultant Rhosyn Harris said there are risks with imposing restrictions on one area and not others, for example if you shut down pubs then people will just congregate at home.

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"Whether it's two weeks of restrictions or something else, I think the most important thing is where these restrictions are implemented and how so we are affecting people's behaviour in an effective way as they may have unintended consequences," she said.

Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, told people to stop 'carping' about the issues with testing which have meant delays for results and problems with even getting an appointment across the country.

In response to a question about the MP's comment, Cllr Nunn said people should keep highlighting issues while remembering the uniqueness of the pandemic and other shortages which the country has overcome.

"Getting tested if you or a member of your family has symptoms of the virus that could be a killer is the right thing to do," he said.

"So keep 'carping', keep complaining and keep moaning to get the lab capacity up but be mindful that resources have been short for different things at different times so let's keep going."