AS LOCKDOWN ends, and Oxfordshire moves into Tier 2 of the new coronavirus restrictions, we all need to be careful for Christmas.

We need to keep coronavirus case numbers falling in our area, and make sure we keep working as one county with one set of restrictions, building on our strong local whole-system approach.

But the Government needs to become as effective as our councils are. The tiers system is incredibly flawed, we saw that last time.

My postbag has been full of messages from constituents who are fed up with the lack of clarity and absence of evidence from the Government. Many constituents are still not receiving any support from the Government at all.

I completely understand the anxiety and pain that ongoing restrictions cause. My concern is that we need to get through this without a third lockdown next year. Like you, I wish I could see my friends and family. I wish we had more freedom right now. But we cannot be complacent, and we have to recognise that public health must come first if we are to avoid boom and bust lockdowns that cause even greater economic damage.

I’ve heard from a number of people who are calling for tiers to be decided for smaller areas. For rural areas and places with low cases to be treated separately from towns and cities.

On balance, I support having a single tier for all of Oxfordshire. Our entire local response is coordinated at county level, with all local councils working together as a unified system. The strength of this approach is one of the main reasons that we’re seeing a drop in cases. Our local contact tracing system is part of that. Separating the county into different tiers would undermine that.

Also, a more localised approach isn’t necessarily supported by the data. The case rates for over-60s have been bad across the county, and we must remember that a lot of our care homes are in the south and west of the area, whilst our main hospitals are in the centre.

And a lot of people travel between our district council areas for vital work, for shopping, to see others, to visit places. Tier 2 for just Oxford, say, would be relatively ineffective if everywhere around it is in Tier 1.

Every week, I have a call with our council officers, NHS and Clinical Commissioning Group reps, Local Enterprise Partnership and Director of Public Health.

What’s crystal clear to me from those briefings is that they know best, and Government should be listening to them. It’s not easy. And the tier system is still so flawed – the financial support for so many just isn’t there to make the restrictions work for lots of people.

And if we’re not financially incentivising people on low incomes to self-isolate if they’re asked to, how can we expect test, trace and isolate to vastly improve? This is not the system I support for fighting this virus – we need a long-term exit strategy to create a Covid-Secure UK.

And that’s just it: the Government need to think strategically, and make sure no one is excluded from financial support.

Above everything else, we must avoid another lockdown, which would be so devastating. Lifting restrictions too fast, too soon, would only lead to that – the Government’s approach after the first lockdown has shown us that much.

I will continue to press the Government to save our industries and jobs in our community, and above all else to actually lay out a long-term exit strategy that will save lives and our economic futures.