The battle against coronavirus is the priority for the country
PUBLISHED: 17:05 20 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:05 20 March 2020
There are so many dramatic words that can be used to describe the past week: unprecedented, extraordinary, dramatic, harrowing. Last week my column only touched upon the coronavirus briefly, this week it feels inappropriate to mention anything but the virus and the challenges it poses to us all.
Almost every day this week we’ve had major announcements from the Government. On Monday we had a range of unprecedented public health measures outlined by the Government and then on Tuesday a number of unprecedented economic measures were outlined by the Government in response to this. On Wednesday it was announced that from today schools will be closed for the vast majority of children. Having sent this column over to the Editor yesterday afternoon I can’t guarantee what the situation will be by the time you read this.
What is clear is that the next few months will be extremely difficult for all of us. However they will particularly difficult for some of the most vulnerable in our community and it is absolutely imperative that not just the Government but every single one of us does everything we can to support these individuals.
My role as the Member of Parliament for Ipswich has changed in the short term. This week the key focus for me has been working with my team to deal with all the enquiries that have been sent to me by constituents relating to the developments of the past week. I’ve had people contact me with concerns about the loneliness that may be caused by self-isolation, I’ve had concerns raised with me from renters who fear that they won’t be able to meet rental payments at the end of the month as a result of the crisis, I’ve also had a number of local businesses contact me with concerns regarding their future following the dramatic public health announcements that were made earlier in the week. I have also been contacted by local charities who are concerned that fundraising may dry up during the crisis and they are as a consequence fearing for the long-term future of their charities that carry out invaluable work within our community.
These are just some of the concerns that have been raised with me. I am prioritising all of the enquiries that are made to my office relating to the coronavirus and will do whatever I can to support my constituents during this difficult time.
In addition to responding to enquiries made directly with my office my constituents I have also held a number of phone calls with key stakeholders, from the Chief Executive of our local Hospital and the Chair of the Clinical Commissioning Group to the Chief Executive of Suffolk Age UK. It was following my discussion with Age UK that I decided to establish a “Talks with Tom” system where anyone of my constituents who is in self-isolation and feels lonely can register to have a chat with me over the phone. In short I’m happy to discuss any issue under the sun, the weather, your family, your concerns about the virus, gardening, or my current or past activity in Parliament representing you, you name it, I’m happy to discuss it.
As it stands my father is in self-isolation due to coming from one of the at-risk groups, he seems to be fine at the moment, in fact some of the times I’ve called him to catch up his phone has actually been engaged, it seems he may be using the period of self-isolation to catch up with friends of old.
However my concern is that not all of our old people have such a large social network they can tap into over the phone and I’m keen to do my little bit to support them during this challenging period. If you can think of anyone who could benefit from this, please get them to contact me on either: email@example.com or 01473 599 155 and my team will set up a time to talk.
I plan to be back in Ipswich this weekend as usual however I will be following the Government’s guidance and avoiding all non-essential social contact. It’s not lost on me that Westminster local authority area currently has the highest concentration of coronavirus cases in the country and some of my own Parliamentary colleagues have already tested positive for the virus. As much as I would personally like to meet my constituents in person at this difficult time I’m not prepared to take the chance that I myself could end up spreading this virus.
However, there is a big job for me to do in Westminster at the moment as Ipswich’s representative. I am receiving more e-mails and letters than I’ve ever received and I am glad that I still have the opportunity to raise issues directly with Minister’s and in the House of Commons Chamber on behalf of my constituents.
Just yesterday I raised with the Leader of the House of Commons in the Chamber a conversation I had with the chief executive of Age UK Suffolk earlier this week when he communicated concerns to me about much of the charity’s fundraising being negatively impacted by the crisis and the need for the Government to take action.
It’s clear that the local response to this virus has been amazing. There are so many people who want to go out of their way to help others. We have a wonderful hospital which is prepared for whatever happens over the next few weeks and months staffed by world beating health care professionals who could not be more passionate or dedicated. Together, as a town, as a county and as a country we will get through this, and we will get through this together.