The past few weeks have seen our country enter a new phase of the pandemic. We are now at the start of a second surge in Covid infections across many parts of our country as we head into autumn and winter.
Even here in the Windsor constituency we have seen an uptick in infections with 116 new ‘cases’ in the past week. Whilst this is to the lower end of the scale nationally, it does however represent an increase in cases of 76.1% compared to the week before.
So we must carefully reassess our response going forward. That is why I have already made it clear that any new measures or restrictions must be put before Parliament so that they can be properly scrutinised and evaluated by your elected representatives.
This may appear to many an administrative hurdle, but it is an essential element of our democracy and the best path to getting the right policies enacted. Parliamentary scrutiny is needed now more than ever. We now know that the various harsh and restrictive measures which were put in place earlier in the year have had a disastrous impact in the longer-term.
In education we saw the strife for students, universities and employers surrounding results in August, and we now know that many children from deprived backgrounds have already fallen months behind their better off peers.
In healthcare we have seen the number of cancer diagnoses and the number of patients being admitted for heart attacks and strokes plummet. These critical health conditions have not simply gone away, instead people are suffering at home, or left undiagnosed, which will undoubtedly lead to more deaths in the future which could have been preventable. And then, of course, the economic impact is still being felt now with many jobs, businesses and livelihoods experiencing the same uncertainty that they did right at the start of this pandemic.
At the start of this crisis the lack of knowledge we had of this novel virus, coupled with the need to prepare our health service for the absolute worst-case scenario, lead to the conclusion that lockdown was the right policy at the right time. This approach enjoyed my full support.
Since then we have learnt a great deal more about this virus and seen clear evidence of the heavy toll lockdown has taken on our country. I want us now to consider a different approach which seeks to strike a balance between protecting the vulnerable from the virus, and allowing our economy, educational institutions, and health services to function in a more normal way.
This requires sensible and measured debate and discussion, as well as a willingness to listen to new and bold ideas. Such thinking and open-mindedness will be essential if we are to get through the next year in which Covid will remain an enduring feature of many of our lives.
Yet despite this onerous outlook, I think there is a lot to be positive about. Firstly, that we likely won’t return to the ‘Stay at Home’ message from earlier this year, and with it the overwhelming sense of national emergency which induced a heavy mental and emotional toll amongst everyone. The overwhelming sense is that although there is cause for alarm, we are not where we were back in March. We are in a much better position with a massively expanded testing regime, better treatments for hospitalised patients, and more robust social distancing practices. All of this will severely limit this second peak in comparison to earlier in the year.
You should know that I will continue to push for greater scrutiny of any new coronavirus rules so that the people across the Windsor constituency have the best possible measures in place for them. I know that data sharing, and communication between local authorities and Central Authorities has been strained lately and I will continue to work to improve this situation.
What I hope that you take away from this that, whilst you’re reminded to remain vigilant, please remember that we are in a stronger place than ever before. Remember to stay alert and we will successfully control the virus this winter.