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James Wild: Rule of six should ease confusion

The latest column from the North West Norfolk James Wild, Friday, September 11, 2020

The changes announced by the Prime Minister to stop Covid-19 spreading mean that from Monday people cannot gather in groups of more than six except for schools, work, or certain events such as weddings, funerals, or team sports.

This will be put into law and will be enforceable by the police with fines of £100 for the first offence, doubling on repeat offences up to £3,200. Throughout this pandemic, rules have changed as infection rates have changed.

Picture: Keith Heppell
Picture: Keith Heppell

Although weekly Covid-19 deaths were the lowest since mid-March, there is a concerning rise nationally in positive cases. This is particularly among young people. As well as putting themselves at risk, they can infect vulnerable friends and family.

Simplifying and strengthening the rules makes them easier to understand and for the police to enforce. Many constituents had contacted me confused by previous limits on people they could meet inside or outside premises. Although this stricter approach will be frustrating and restricts our freedom it also brings clarity that they, as well as some hospitality business trying to manage the rules, were seeking.

The requirement to provide contact details in pubs, bars, and restaurants will also help to improve the test and trace system.

It remains essential to continue to follow the social distancing rules – wash your hands, cover your face, give others space. The challenge is to keep the virus under control while continuing the economic recovery and spreading growth across the country.

Much coverage of the Government’s levelling agenda focuses on the so-called Red Wall seats in the North and the Midlands that were won from the Labour Party. But helping all areas realise their potential must mean just that – including North West Norfolk, not just the North.

That’s why I am part of the new Levelling Up Taskforce to support my campaign for better infrastructure, connectivity, education and skills, to ultimately boost growth and incomes. This will be a forum to highlight the challenges that coastal areas face in terms of aspiration and opportunities for young people.

Increasing access to apprenticeship is part of that agenda. As well as the new Kickstart scheme for younger people, employers can apply for cash incentives with £2,000 for new apprentices hired aged under 25, and £1,500 for those 25 and over. While these are tough times for firms, I encourage businesses to look at whether they can develop skills and support the recovery.

Looking after the environment is rightly important to the people of West Norfolk and, as a priority for the Government, much is happening to tackle climate change. There’s much more to do and I’ve spoken to groups of constituents who want to go faster towards net zero.

A reasoned and robust debate making that case is an important part of democracy.

But efforts to accelerate climate action are ill-served by the unacceptable blockading of printworks. Stopping people reading newspapers, including some in this area, is an attack on all our freedoms.

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