It has now been more than a month since the government implemented the lockdown and it has been a challenge for all of us to come to terms with the dramatic changes to our daily lives.
Many of us are separated from our loved ones, but sticking to the lockdown is saving lives and flattening the curve so that the NHS can help those enter hospital.
Early indications suggest that we can at last see light at the end of the tunnel and we may have finally reached the peak of this crisis. Of course, nothing is certain and events can change rapidly, as we know all too well. But I hope that you can take some encouragement from the fact that the number of daily confirmed cases has fallen since last week, whilst the daily death toll is now lower than at this point last week also.
This crisis is presenting an unprecedented challenge to the government on a scale that has not been seen for 100 years. It is inevitable that we may not get things right the first time. Yet we can remain confident that our actions have been guided by the science at every stage. Science is impartial, so it is vital that advice from independently-minded scientists and experts at the top of their respective fields is taken by ministers from both inside and outside government. It is the science and the socio-economic data that must shape policy at every stage.
To ignore the science would be reckless and irresponsible, despite what certain media commentators may suggest. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to point out things ministers could have done differently. But this ignores the fact that the science around this pandemic is constantly changing, and so too is the advice. It is right that strategies and policies change based on changing science, evidence and advice.
At every stage though, the government has been ready and willing to listen, learn, and adapt its response. I have been struck by the speed at which ministers have done this, highlighting how ready and prepared ministers are to react to new information. Not just from experts and scientists, but also from myself and my colleagues on behalf of our constituents.
In Windsor for example, many local charitable organisations, such as the Thames Hospice, expressed their concern that they would soon be unable to provide essential services for much longer due to dwindling donations and increasing demand. Having passed this onto the Chancellor alongside other colleagues I was thrilled by his announcement of making £750 million available for charities, of which £370 million will go straight to small charities.
Additionally, alongside my colleagues Theresa May of Maidenhead and James Sanderson of Bracknell, I have ensured that the concerns raised regarding PPE and testing are continually passed on to the Department of Health. I have been in constant communication with local leaders, officials and councillors to try to assess what Windsor front-line services need. Such as ensuring PPE is being properly distributed or trying to ensure that enough public services remained available over the Easter weekend to help handle the increase in demand.
At all levels of this process, from the front-line to the Department of Health, I have been truly impressed by the scale of the coordination and the willingness to listen to emerging ideas from the private sector, and alarms raised by local leaders. Far from the consistently negative picture painted by the media, our public servants from a range of backgrounds and job roles are working round the clock to see us through the crisis by responding to challenges that arise on a day to day basis.
It is because of this hard work that we have managed to create more than enough beds for COVID patients, ensuring that we don’t experience a shortage like in Italy. Moreover, we have almost distributed 1 billion pieces of PPE across the country and we are ramping production further still.
In addition to pressing ministers on ensuring that the health service is adequately supplied I have also been working to ensure that our ambitious package of financial and economic support reaches as many people as possible. This has included passing forward concerns that many businesses have not been covered by the business rates holiday and government grants, and various concerns voiced by the self-employed workers across the constituency. I have also raised many issues that businesses were voicing surrounding the business interruption loan scheme with my colleagues in the Treasury. It has prompted immediate responses and changes to the policy as a result. More recently, the government committed to preventing landlords from evicting businesses who are unable to pay rent, which should help to ensure that shuttered businesses do not close for good.
I firmly believe that there is a lot to be positive about and I sincerely hope that I have successfully relayed this to you today and have left you in higher spirits.
Let me once again express my thanks to everyone practising social distancing, the heroes working selflessly in front-line services, and local councillors, officials and leaders who are tirelessly coordinating the response across Windsor.
And let me also reiterate that there is light at the end of this tunnel. The road may be long, but every day we get closer and closer to defeating this virus and reuniting with our families and loved ones.