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DUP MP Sammy Wilson: I have no apology to make for ‘Covid joke tweet’

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has stuck to his guns over a flippant tweet he sent on Coronavirus.

His tweet came just before the Commons passed legislation for new restrictions this week, in a bid to tackle the Omicron variant. He tweeted: “Ding dong merrily on high will be replaced this Christmas by ping-dong miserably we sigh. I will vote against new restrictions in Parliament today. They are not proportionate to deal with the spread of the mild omicron variant.”

Asked about Mr Wilson’s tweet, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson responded: “Covid is no joking matter. People have died from Covid... and I think it is incumbent upon all public representatives to support public health messaging...”.

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But Mr Wilson insisted that his tweet was justified, saying he was trying to draw attention to flaws in the new legislation. He said the government minister taking legislation through the Commons could not explain how to comply with it. “She did not understand how you would ascertain if someone was suspected of having the new variant of Coronovrius or not. So I have no apology first of all for the way I gave the message.

Sammy Wilson is DUP MP for East Antrim

“I could have said it in a boring way and decided not to. But the one thing I will say is that it isn’t any joking matter. It is no joking matter for the businesses which have already lost millions of pounds worth of business as a result of the new instructions from the health ministers both in England and N Ireland. It is no joking matter for those who may not be able to meet their families again over Christmas. It is no joking matter for those people who will find themselves isolated again as a result of these unclear instructions. And what I can’t understand is why the media do not question some of this.

“I was also making the point that despite the fact we were assured that we were entering a new era of freedom and safety with the vaccinations, it seems as though every new variant is going to put the economy and the freedoms that people have into a tailspin.”

He said that about 34 Conservative MPs voted against the legislation and 95% of speeches that day also opposed it: “So I wasn’t alone.” About 100 other MPs did not vote, he believes, because they too opposed the legislation.

The MP says some doctors have been confiding in him privately that they share many of his concerns about Covid but fear being struck off if they speak out.

“I met with a group of GPs yesterday and they were telling me about the waiting list for cancer. But you don’t get the number of people who have died prematurely from cancer every night on the television, all because of the emphasis we have now placed on Covid in the NHS.

“I have had doctors writing to me saying ‘What you are saying is right but we wouldn’t dare say it because we could get struck off now.” The MP said the medics were talking about the current cancer death rates caused by NHS resources being aborbed by Covid and the restrictions being imposed on the public.

“One doctor wrote to me and pointed to a paper in the Lancet where they did a test for masks with over 1000 people.” The paper found that masks improve protection from Covid about 0.3%, he said, and the conclusion was that the difference masks made was “statistically insignificant”.

He states that the flu killed some 30,000 people in the UK three years ago, and normally kills some 14-16,000 each year.” But we don’t close down the country for it. We take precautions and people use their common sense.”

Teachers or other workers would take time off work to avoid giving it to children, colleagues or vulnerable relatives, he says.

“Despite what some say, I am not a Covid denier. I have had members of my own party who have died as a result of Covid. But we cannot disrupt economic life, personal life, the education of children and the mental health of half the population by having a continual death toll announced every day, with the fear of God put into people every time a new variant comes about, whether it has been proved to be lethal or not.

“It is not fair on youngsters who have lost out on education and socialising, on people who are isolated in their homes and people who are maybe not very mentally resilient.”

He says it is fine for ministers “who probably live in big houses” but is much more difficult for constituents of his such as a single mother with three young children in a flat who are “going daft” after one day of lockdown.

He had one constituent, he said, who was not from a well-off background, and who poured all her money into her own salon only for it to fold in the second lockdown.

“Politicians have to think - are the actions they are taking proportionate or are they going to have other effects which are equally as bad [as Covid]?”

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