Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Use common sense on lockdown exit

IN his announcement on Sunday, the Prime Minister offered a general overview of where we are headed with regard to the lockdown and the conditions under which we are going to release it.

He did not provide a detailed road map for everyone to follow individually because common sense is an important aspect in taking this situation forward.

We are asking everyone to employ their own judgement and intelligence in assessing their circumstances and to work with the Government to achieve the best result in preventing further deaths from covid-19.

It would be totally wrong to assume that we are going to tell people how they ought to behave in every minute detail of their lives. Mr Johnson’s address was a call for discretion to be exercised and for co-operation between all sections of society.

Since then I’ve received 
quite a large number of queries as to whether people can engage in specific activities and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why as the principles have been clearly set out.

One woman, for example, was asking when she might be able to get a pedicure again. My answer was the Government is unlikely to set out a list of every single thing you can or cannot do.

I would suggest that such treatments are unlikely to be permitted under the first phase of lifting the lockdown.

There has been criticism of the Government’s approach and how it has been communicated but that is very unhelpful and, if it is any indication of the true scale of feeling, I’ve only received two emails complaining about this. The rest have come from people who are happy to follow the message.

The crucial thing here is vigilance  — we need to continue taking the fundamental hygiene measures that we’ve followed from the outset, such as washing our hands.

If you’re staying alert for these things, there’s a much better chance of keeping the disease under control and getting us out of lockdown as soon as possible, which everyone is very keen to see.

Some opinion polls have suggested that a lot of people don’t want to come out until it’s safe, so there are perhaps mixed feelings, but there’s still an overall sense that we want to get back to business as usual.

I’m particularly pleased to see that garden centres are now free to re-open because it will help those businesses and give people a constructive use for their time as they plant up for the summer. There had been concerns that they were at a disadvantage as supermarkets could sell similar goods.

Considering that my constituency is bounded on three sides by the River Thames, it is also welcome that people may return to angling. This is a solo sport with no personal contact.

Additionally, the Chancellor’s decision to extending the employee furlough scheme while increasing the responsibility of employers is sensible. It would be wrong of us to end it right now but it must end eventually and it’s equally right that the cost is shared.

As for the outbreak itself, I have received only two calls (both from care homes) about practical matters such as coronavirus testing. This hopefully suggests there are few problems in this area.

I’ve also spoken with the police following allegations of illegal activity at the Red Lion Hotel in Henley and would stress that this relates to temporarily housed homeless people and not prisoners on early release, as one rumour has it. I’m assured that it’s now on officers’ regular route for patrols.

I have also asked the Thames Valley chief constable how the police will adapt to the relaxing of the lockdown. Readers should be pleased to hear they will proceed with the usual pragmatism following discussion with the Home Office.

The force has received more than 3,500 reports alleging breaches of the lockdown and attended six per cent of these. It’s hoped that the number will drop.

I have addressed concerns from constituents that few banks outside of the established names were able to offer the Government’s new “Bounce back” loans for businesses.

I emailed the Chancellor and he called me to explain that efforts are under way to include as many additional banks as possible, subject to the necessary checks.

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