As I sit in my office in Westminster for the first time in what seems like a century ago, I reflect on the last few weeks, which have been very difficult for many of us in different ways. We have seen NHS workers, care workers, supermarket and food retail workers, some teachers, refuse collectors, cleaners, post office workers, police, bus, train and some taxi drivers and other sector workers, as well as many manufacturing and service industries continuing to work in very difficult circumstances, whilst many other people have been furloughed. We have all, bar the non-community spirited few, adhered to the strict social distancing put in place by the Government to slow the spread of coronavirus to save lives and the capacity of our NHS. Thanks to the hard work and sacrifices made by Hastings and Rye residents, we have slowed the spread of coronavirus and have one of the lowest rates in the country.
Coronavirus has been a devastating health emergency with untold hardship, sickness and death affecting many people and many families throughout the world. But it has also been an economic crisis with many businesses having to close and furlough staff. Other businesses have seen, for example, diminished revenues and stock prices and lost rental income. The Government has put the health of the nation at the forefront of its mind – people’s lives matter - and it has provided unprecedented financial support to individuals and businesses. I know not every person and business received the support they needed immediately and over the past few months I have lobbied ministers for them, and for those who continue to fall through the gaps.
We must now reopen our economy and get it back on track. We face long-term devastation to our economy and the human toll of this is a risk we cannot afford to take. This means that all of us need to take steps to build up our confidence to live with coronavirus. The Government’s policy has been precautionary, putting the health of the nation first. It has slowly started to ease restrictions, of which some people are fearful of. In order to reopen our economy, we all need to take a more risk-based approach and prepare for the future as best we can, living with a virus we might never find a vaccine for.
Uncertainty generates fear, and fear is a very strong emotion for all of us, which many of us struggle to overcome. I am confident that the test and trace system, targeted towards localised outbreaks and launched by the Government last week, will help us overcome our fears of coronavirus and open-up our economy. Test and trace plans are not a substitute for hand washing and social distancing, but supplementary to them, and part of our armoury in our fight against coronavirus.
We all need to be back at work as soon as safely possible, so it is important that this test and trace system is up and running before the economy is fully opened-up. This will help generate confidence for us all to go about our ‘new normal’ daily lives, taking the necessary health and social distancing precautions as we do so.
Sally-Ann Hart MP