In some good news, the Welsh Government has finally decided to enable tourism businesses to reopen - although not until Monday 13 July. By then, the five-mile travel limit which applies only in Wales will also, hopefully, have been lifted. The stricter the lockdown, the less Coronavirus will spread but the more jobs will be lost. Getting the balance right between jobs and suppression of Covid-19 is extremely difficult. However, with infections falling and better treatments available, the time has come to think about the impact that unemployment and poverty will have on public health in the years ahead. Of course, we need to be able to respond to local outbreaks which will continue to occur, as we have seen on Anglesey. But overall the virus is now under control and we need to be back at work for the economy to survive.
School closures have been a disaster for our children’s education. I would happily put my children back into a classroom of 30 tomorrow yet teaching unions and education ministers are unlikely to accept this. The private sector seems to have managed to quickly get organised so children can have an almost normal school day online. By September, state school pupils will have had nearly six months of disrupted and unsatisfactory education. For the sake of their life chances, I hope an agreement between unions and ministers can be reached fast.
Every so often a rumour circulates that the UK Government has some secret plan to “sell-off’ or “privatise” the National Health Service. This particular conspiracy theory was first stated as fact in 1987 and resurfaces every few years. It is back again. Let me offer some reassurance here. The UK Government will NEVER under any circumstances sell-off or privatise the NHS. There is no plan to do this and never has been. There is no MP who wants this or has ever called for this. Our NHS has been superb over the past few months. Like millions of others, I have had cause to see the NHS in action recently. I am deeply grateful to those who helped a member of my own family. Only a madman would suggest selling-off or privatising the NHS. Please continue to email me on this issue if you are worried, but rest assured it will never happen.
It is not just NHS staff to whom we should be grateful. One of the remarkable local charities in Monmouthshire is St David’s Hospice Care. This amazing organisation enables people with terminal illnesses to end their lives at home with loved ones. Nurses and carers provide the care that is needed but, equally as important, are able to step back and give families precious time together. It must be challenging, mentally and physically, but the staff are absolutely wonderful and make what can be a very difficult time that little bit easier.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 24 June 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 25 June 2020*