Coronavirus is the greatest challenge our nation has faced since the Second World War.
Yet we can find courage and confidence in a simple certainty – rooted in the kindness and resolve which has always seen the British people through, our country has overcome even greater challenges in the past.
As the Prime Minister made clear in his televised national address this week, coronavirus must be taken extremely seriously by us all.
The Secretary of State for Health has launched an unprecedented crusade of investment in our NHS, purchasing as many vital ventilators as possible whilst increasing the numbers of intensive care beds.
In addition, clinicians in both primary and secondary care have received world-leading advice, covering detection and investigation of possible cases, infection prevention and clinical diagnostics.
Nevertheless, no matter how prepared we are, if the spread of this silent killer is not slowed, there will come a point at which hospitals are overwhelmed – costing many lives. So we must all play our part in supporting the NHS.
Let there be no doubt – your actions today will have a direct impact on Accident and Emergency Departments in ten days’ time. It is no exaggeration to say that by staying at home except when necessary, you are saving lives. Thank you to all those practicing social distancing by limiting contact with others.
However, sadly, there remains a small minority who continue to defy official instruction. Scenes of irresponsible people boastfully exercising cheek by jowl in a public park and others cavorting at the seaside this weekend were disturbing – It’s hard to know whether such types are selfish, stupid or both.
For this reason, new regulations have been introduced. People may now leave their homes for four reasons – to exercise once a day, travel to work (if not working from home), shop for essential items and fulfil medical or care needs.
If people do not follow these rules, the police will have the powers to fine offenders and disperse gatherings.
Thankfully, I am grateful that, as always, people in our community have shown exceptional solidarity.
The scores of volunteers in the local Covid Kindness Team, along with hundreds of others acting independently, are working tirelessly to provide for both the material and emotional needs of those who are housebound – shopping, collecting prescriptions or simply having a friendly chat on the phone.
Similarly, care homes across our area have received much needed foodstuffs from the Fresh Produce Network – a group of 15 local businesses making sure those without access to shops get what they need.
I know that local firms deserve support during this time of unprecedented economic uncertainty.
The Chancellor has acted boldly, promising to do everything necessary to support small and medium businesses, the self-employed and those in hardest hit economic sectors. This includes paying 80 per cent of the wages of staff kept on by their employer up to £2,500 a month, making it easier for people to access benefits immediately, grant funding, business rate holidays and interest free loans.
These are extraordinary times during which we will encounter many difficulties and much sadness.
Nevertheless, if we come together as one nation, we will not only endure this crisis but emerge from it to flourish once more.