AS an MP, much of my job is voting in Parliament on things that will affect all aspects of people’s lives in my constituency and across the wider North-East.

Today, I voted once more, and I assure readers it was not a vote I made lightly. As someone who firmly believes in personal liberties, and has freedom at the very core of my values, it was with a heavy heart I voted to support the four week national lockdown restrictions.

None of us wants to be in this position. But I also know, people in Bishop Auckland are backing me. This week, I conducted a survey across my constituency to gather the views of local residents. Hundreds of people took part, and it showed that they support the lockdown measures despite knowing the difficulties we will all have to endure.

Unfortunately, the second wave of this relentless and cruel virus means it is the right decision to act now to defeat it – even if a lockdown is something few of us have an appetite for.

Unless action is taken now, I firmly believe that families across Bishop Auckland, and the region, will suffer this winter.

The Prime Minister spoke to the nation on Saturday, and outlined the current Covid picture and how troubling the future forecasts look. He presented a number of scientific models with slightly different outlooks, but they all shared the conclusion that if we allow the R rate to remain above 1, the virus will continue to grow. And that means more people in hospital fighting for their lives and, tragically, more deaths.

As an MP, I would not be able to look myself in the mirror knowing I voted against measures that could save the lives of people in our community.

It is why we must do something now to protect the NHS and to reduce transmission and save lives.

Since the virus first took root, the heroes in our NHS have been leading in the battle against it. We all remember standing on our doorsteps on a Thursday night to applaud their efforts and recognise the work they have undertaken as they risked their own health and wellbeing to save us.

The NHS has been there to protect us – and now we must help to protect it.

The statistics from hospitals up and down the country show that unless we take strong action now, there is a real danger that the NHS could be overwhelmed by the virus. That would mean routine surgeries, treatments and appointments would be postponed, while ultimately doctors and nurses would face turning away non-Covid patients with life-threatening illnesses and injuries from our hospitals. We cannot put such terrible decisions on the shoulders of those who have fought so hard to keep us safe and healthy.

We want people to be able to use the NHS now for whatever they need it for. It is why I believe MPs made the right decision and voted for the new restrictions.

But because I know how difficult the restrictions are for us all, I will do all I can support local residents. I have re-started the Bishop Auckland Coronavirus Angels to ensure anyone struggling can easily access food and other essential supplies throughout the lockdown.

Many businesses have been struggling, jobs have been lost, and families have seen the impact on their incomes. I am talking to local businesses and charities to gather feedback, and am in constant communication with ministerial colleagues to ensure that the Government is doing all it can. There is already a wide range of financial support packages in place, and I am pleased to hear the Chancellor confirm that support will continue until the lockdown is over in early December when MPs will then vote on what happens next.

I am also deeply concerned about the mental health implications – both from the financial pressures people are facing, but also the impact of isolation and a lack of social contact. This is an issue close to my heart, and is something I am constantly discussing with colleagues in Government. I was pleased to see the restrictions for this lockdown allow people to meet up with someone from another household outdoors, and single parents and those living alone are allowed to form a social bubble with one other household.

We must and we will beat this virus. It is why going into another national lockdown for a few weeks is the right, and only, decision for us right now. It will not be easy, but together, embracing the same incredible community spirit we saw in the spring, I know we can overcome this lockdown.