On Monday the Prime Minister set out how life will soon return close to normal as we near our final unlocking of restrictions on 19th July. This unlocking will see an end to social distancing and limits on gatherings, as well as the wearing of face masks no longer being mandatory. We must learn to live with this virus as we do with the flu and the huge success of our vaccine rollout stands us in great stead to do so. Indeed it is hoped that it can help the uptake of the winter flu vaccine this year too.
As I said on BBC Somerset earlier in the week, the whole mask issue is a chance for us as a community to show respect and understanding to each other. While the case for masks is less strong when prevalence is low and people have been vaccinated or are at low risk of serious outcomes, we should still take one though to certain environments in case wearing it might make others more comfortable, such as in a care home or hospital.
To further delay removal of restrictions would be hugely damaging, not just for our physical and mental wellbeing, but for the number of businesses struggling to stay afloat and the livelihoods dependent on them. Even with nearly £80 billion made available through emergency Government-backed loans, in addition to various Government support grants and the furlough scheme, many businesses have been or are on the verge of being lost and it is so important that we take this opportunity now to give them the certainty they need. There are so many groups that have been affected but I would like to mention the wedding industry and also choirs as just two which I know will be so keen to get going again.
On a similar theme I have been constantly lobbying the Government to get our schools back to normal as soon as possible. As such I was delighted to see the news on Tuesday that the Covid bubbles system in schools will cease at the end of the summer term. While these bubbles played a role in limiting case numbers for a time they are now causing unnecessary disruption to pupils’ lives.
As we look beyond the pandemic it is also encouraging that the Government has launched a consultation setting out proposed changes to teacher training such as new intensive school placements and mentoring schemes. I look forward to working closely with ministers on further ideas such as this to make our schools the best they can be. The consultation is online at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/initial-teacher-training-itt-market… and particularly if you are a teacher or thinking of becoming one do get involved. I am also very interested to hear from Somerset teachers and parents about their views on banning mobile phones in schools.
Finally my thanks go to Adam Dyer for hosting me at the Gateway at the end of last week. Yeovil Community Church and its related charities have done more than ever to help others over the course of the pandemic and we are grateful to have them here.
As always, if I can be of help or if you would like to contact me on any of these issues please do call 01935314321 or email email@example.com