Politically Speaking: Jon Trickett MP
We know our biggest strength is each other
This is turning out to be some year.
Nobody could have guessed that Brexit and our future relationship with Europe would be a secondary news item.
But as we know, the issue that everybody is rightly concerned about is coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Let me start by saying that the most important thing is to follow government guidelines.
It is strongly advised that you stay at home for at least seven days if you exhibit symptoms of the virus (often a new continuous cough and/or a high temperature), and that those people that live with you must also stay at home for 14 days, to make sure they don’t have the virus too.
The Government is also advising that everyone practice social distancing, to prevent transmission.
This is especially crucial for people with underlying medical conditions that may leave them at increased risk of severe illness if they catch the virus and for those aged 70 or older.
There are many more important government guidelines that we all must follow, and I urge you to check government websites to keep up-to-date.
You’ll also be able to find numbers for helplines dealing with support for businesses, tax problems, school closures and universal credit. They are posted on my Facebook page too.
We in Labour have been in conversation with the Government these last few weeks.
I do believe that they could have handled these events better, but at the moment our focus has been to convince the Government to make sure our fantastic NHS workers, who are leading the charge against the virus, have access to the appropriate equipment and testing.
While we support the business relief measures the Government has outlined, we’ve also called on the Government to take proper steps to protect the most vulnerable.
No-one should be forced to choose between health and hardship.
The measures we’ve called for include full sick-pay for all workers, rent payment deferment and a ban on any evictions of tenants affected by the outbreak, as well as changes to universal credit, including ending sanctions and bringing the waiting time for payments down.
I’ve also asked the Government what they are doing so that people with specific dietary concerns can obtain the food they need from supermarkets.
But I’m proud to say that while the Government has been dithering, many in our community are showing real leadership.
Support networks have sprung up throughout our area, providing assistance to those that need it most.
I’m not surprised. There is a strong tradition of looking out for each other round here, stretching back to the miners’ strike and before.
We know that our biggest strength is each other.
If you’d like to know more about these groups, then get in touch with my office.
In the meantime, look after yourselves and look after each other.
Only by doing that will we beat this virus.