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‘We’ll come through this stronger’ - MP on Ipswich’s coronavirus fight

PUBLISHED: 09:20 27 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:20 27 March 2020

Members of the public in masks hours before it was announced the country would be on lockdown. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Members of the public in masks hours before it was announced the country would be on lockdown. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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This week has been the last week that parliament will sit for a fair few weeks. Technically Easter recess lasts for three weeks but it could be that it’s slightly longer than this before 
I properly return to parliament, time will tell.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt will phone constituents who are feeling alone or anxious during the COVID-19 crisis. Picture; PAUL GEATERIpswich MP Tom Hunt will phone constituents who are feeling alone or anxious during the COVID-19 crisis. Picture; PAUL GEATER

Ordinarily, Easter recess would be packed full of events across the town and I would be expecting to meet with hundreds of constituents. Not this time. My main priority will be on supporting all my constituents whose lives have been disrupted by the outbreak of the coronavirus, that will be my number one priority. Primarily this will involve dealing with the hundreds of individual enquiries that have been made to my office over the past few weeks. Without doubt, the last couple of weeks have been the busiest my office has been since the election and I believe this will continue to be the case over the next couple of weeks.

This Wednesday, rather unexpectedly, I managed to raise my first question during Prime Minister’s Questions. My question wasn’t on the order paper and there was no guarantee whatsoever that I would be called to ask my question, but it seems I managed to catch the speaker’s eye and I was able to ask my question.

Since the prime minister set out the new social distancing guidance earlier this week, it became clear that even more pressure is going to be placed on limited police resources due to the role that the police will have in enforcing the guidance set out.

My belief is that the vast majority of the public will/are following the social distancing guidance and I completely understand why the local police chief constable sees enforcement as a last resort. However, the reality is that the situation needs to be closely monitored and there may well be occasions where enforcement is necessary, and this will place extra pressure on limited resources. Add to this the fact that the police Force is likely is likely to be impacted by the coronavirus itself. Rightly we hear warm praise for our NHS staff and the critical, selfless role that they are playing at the moment fighting to save the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society. However, it’s also right that we pay tribute to our brave police officers who over the next few weeks who will be under even more pressure than usual and will be going above and beyond to keep us safe.

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I am glad that many special constables are being freed up by their employers to commit full time to supporting the police force during this challenging period and, like with the NHS, there is certainly scope for recently retired police officers to return to the force to play a key role in boosting resilience in police forces up and down the country.

Back to the question I asked during Prime Minister’s Questions this week. My question revolved around those who may see this national crisis as an opportunity to push forward a criminal agenda. I asked the prime minister whether he would make a promise to me that he would come down like a ton of brinks of any such individuals and I was glad that he was able to give me this assurance.

The reality is though that the vast majority of people in our town and our country are coming together during this extremely challenging time. The amount of energy there is locally to pull together and volunteer to help some of the most vulnerable within our communities is extraordinary.

I would say that during my lifetime there have been two moments where I have been strongly reminded of how great a country we are and how when push comes to shove, we have far more that united us than divides us. The first was the 2012 Olympics and the second is right now.

The next few weeks and months will be very challenging and scary for many of my constituents. I know that a great deal of uncertainty and disruption has been caused for many of my constituents and they can rest assured that my door is always open and I will always do whatever I can to support them.

However, ultimately, as I said last week, we will come through this, and there is a good chance we can come through this even stronger than we were at the start.

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