As you will be aware, the public health restrictions on our daily lives have now been officially extended by the Government. While I know this will be frustrating for everyone, it is really important that we continue to adhere to these new rules. They will ensure we can help to slow the spread of coronavirus in our communities and in doing so, help to save lives here in Bristol and further afield.
While many of us are becoming used to a new sort of normal, and the new ways of working and living it brings, there remains a real uncertainty for many. I of course support the extension of the lockdown in principle, but am pleased that Keir Starmer has called on the Government to publish its proposed exit strategy from the measures currently in place. Nobody is asking for a timetable, as this would be both unrealistic and unhelpful in the current circumstances. But it is vital that people here are given a clearer understanding as to what future steps will likely be necessary for us to transition back towards “normal” everyday life. As your MP, I’ll be working with Keir to get these answers.
Parliament is currently in recess, but I’ve had a busy week here in Bristol, with conference calls replacing the usual round of meetings! It was really good to catch up with Mayor Marvin Rees and his staff on a wide range of issues around coronavirus, including social care and domestic violence.
I also joined a call with our Police and Crime Commissioner to discuss police enforcement of social distancing and get an update on the Local Resilience Forum. It was good to hear her say that local police have adequate PPE and that crime across the region is down.
Mayor Marvin Rees and I joined another meeting with Councillor Anna Keen, Fare Share and Feeding Bristol to discuss Government funding of school meal provision during the holidays. The financial impact of coronavirus means that many more children will be entitled to Free School Meals but we’re concerned that additional Government funding is not being distributed between Local Authorities in an effective way. We’ll keep working to make sure no child has to go hungry.
I was delighted last week to be appointed as a shadow Minister for Green Transport. Shifting to more sustainable forms of travel will be such a massive part of tackling the climate emergency – and it’s something I’m passionate about. I’m really looking forward to working with shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon and the whole team.
Tuesday will see Parliament return from the Easter break – but with some changes to allow for social distancing. Parliamentary authorities have proposed that around 120 MPs dial in via Zoom calls to ask questions – with a further 50 allowed to sit in the chamber. It’s so important that we are able to scrutinise the decisions the Government is taking at this extraordinary time, and I’m really pleased that – like so many other people at this time – the Parliamentary authorities are going to use technology to make sure we can all still do our jobs.
In closing, I wanted to say a few words again about the tremendous efforts of NHS staff who are putting themselves in danger every day caring for those people most affected by the virus. I know we are all incredibly grateful for their efforts, and it’s been so heartening to hear the applause every Thursday night. But I think sometimes it takes an individual story to drive home just how brave and selfless these frontline workers are, and what sacrifices they are making to take care of us. I was incredibly moved by the story this week of Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, a nurse from Luton and Dunstable Hospital, which is where I was born. Mary died last Sunday after contracting Coronavirus. She was only 28, and was pregnant. Her little girl was saved by an emergency caesarean section.
It’s hard to fully comprehend the tragedy of a story like Mary’s or how her family must be feeling, but if nothing else, it makes us realise just how important it is that we continue to respect the social distancing regulations that are currently in place. Some people have literally given their lives to protect us. We must play whatever part we can to support them, no matter how small it seems.
My office remains reachable by phone or email, and as ever, please do contact us if we can help on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 0117 939 9901. Remember – stay home, save lives, and do keep washing your hands!