The news this week sadly is that restrictions continue to prevent the spread of the awful coronavirus. For those of us who have not had family or friends affected by the illness can I just emphasise it can be deadly whoever we are, whether we are young or old or have underlying health conditions. For the many who know someone who has had it the seriousness is well understood.
Mounting pressure to ease the economic impact is completely understandable but has to be balanced with evidence from places like Japan and Singapore that a second wave of infection is likely and could neuter our efforts up to now if allowed to come on at an overwhelming rate.
With parts of the economy restricted it is crucial we keep working where we can in areas that are not, whilst observing guidance on social distancing and hygiene. I hope it is not too long before we can start to ease the rules to allow more people back to work, and springing back with vigour will definitely be required.
It remains crucial we all do what we can to support NHS and social care providers and increase their capacity to cope, and buy time for the development of better treatments and vaccines. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is at the centre of debate at the moment but if some of those criticising spent more time constructively supporting efforts we might be in a better place. Somerset is in reasonable shape on this front. There is a collegiate approach to PPE protocols and sourcing and great support from local businesses.
Special mention must go this week to all those helping get supplies and meals to those who are shielding or in difficulty. In particular I want to thank Jason Hawkes and all the volunteers of the Chard Town Covid team who are showing our community spirit shining through in providing very effective help to those ringing the Town Hall with needs.
As your MP, whilst understanding everyone has their own concerns at the moment, I should mention Parliament has now restarted albeit in a mostly virtual form. It will mean some welcome opportunity for scrutiny of Government. As your representative I must say though that while I am in telephone contact with a range of Ministers the physical corridor chat in Westminster is often a useful way of progressing things for Somerset and the sooner we get back to normal the better.
I did have a virtual meeting with Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin and officials this week to talk about our helicopter strategy, which was productive. It’s no substitute for the experience of being in manufacturing centres of excellence like Leonardo though, and Jeremy is going to visit as soon as the restrictions allow.
I remain less positive about some virtual meetings and am still receiving letters and emails from local people concerned about planning meetings being held at the District Council in ways that effectively exclude them. Given the number of unpopular applications in process or pending I do think residents should be able to express their views in person and I am seeking assurances.