James Wild column: Protecting health and the economy
The latest column from North West Norfolk's MP during the pandemic period, Friday, September 25, 2020
A stitch in time saves nine. That is the principle driving the new measures announced by the Prime Minister this week aimed at keeping the Covid R – reproduction – rate down while minimising the impact on our lives and livelihoods.
Under the measures, office workers are asked to work from home if they can – but in key public services and sectors, such as construction or retail, people should continue going into their workplace.
Pubs, restaurants, and bar will have to offer table service - as many already do – and close at 10pm.
Face coverings are now required for shop workers and staff and customers in indoor hospitality except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
While the rule of six continues, wedding ceremonies and receptions will be limited to 15 people. Finally, large sporting events, business conferences, and exhibitions will not re-open from 1 October. Penalties for non-compliance have been increased.
These changes will be unwelcome for many, particularly hospitality businesses just getting back on their feet.
Sports will also be hit. I know the Linnets, speedway, and other sports depend on the gate income and related spend in order to survive. That’s why I am urging the government to introduce a Sports Recovery Fund similar to the Cultural Recovery Fund.
The new measures come when the level of infection in North West Norfolk, and across the country, remains low. However, nationally nearly 4,000 people are testing positive on average every day, compared to a thousand a month ago.
It goes against the instinct of all Conservatives to restrict people’s freedoms in ways which would have seemed unimaginable at the beginning of the year but these steps are designed to suppress the disease and avoid tougher controls.
Many people were rightly concerned that we would return to the full national lockdown seen in March.
That would be devastating for our economy and wellbeing. This action is not that - schools and universities are staying open, and the vast majority of businesses can stay open in a Covid secure way.
With these measures and by playing our part – washing our hands, covering our faces, observing social distancing – we can help live with this virus until we develop vaccines and mass testing.
During the lockdown people’s mental health suffered significantly. West Norfolk Befriending has a long record of supporting older people by providing someone to listen to them. Last week I talked to the team about how their volunteers had given invaluable support to many local residents during Covid-19 and how they have adapted their service which was previously based on face to face visits.
As well as Covid-19, we face the challenge of the flu. When I drove past the surgery in Burnham Market on Saturday I saw people queuing to get jabs. There are enough vaccines for a record 30 million people. The most vulnerable, including adults aged 65 and over, those with long-term health conditions and pregnant women, will be offered the vaccine first through their GP or pharmacy. I urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.