Ipswich MP: Covid presents serious threat to physical and mental health

Tom Hunt has been rebuked by Conservative PCC Tim Passmore. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Tom Hunt says Covid-19 poses a serious threat to physical health, but also people's mental health - Credit: Archant

Happy New Year! The phrase “things can only get better” comes to mind - it’s very difficult to see how 2021 can be any worse than 2020.

For many, I’m sure 2020 will sadly go down as the worst year of their lives. Many will have lost loved ones, suffered in terms of their mental health and or seen their livelihood take a significant knock.

Two days ago, we had the brilliant news that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine had been approved. We have secured 100million doses of this vaccine and it will be rolled out from next Monday.

This is definitely a development that makes me be proud to be British. One of our great academic institutions and a pharmaceutical giant, with its global headquarters just down the road in Cambridge.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is central to our ambitions to dramatically scale up the national vaccination programme and to ensure that all those who are most vulnerable to Covid-19 get a vaccine ASAP.

It can be transported far easier than the Pfizer vaccine and can be stored in a fridge, meaning that community roll out will be far easier.

Clearly, the government hasn’t got everything right over the past year - but the reality is that, when it comes to vaccines, there aren’t many countries that are as far ahead as we are.

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In addition to this, due to the Oxford/AstraZeneca being so much cheaper than the others, it’s likely that it will be our vaccine that makes the decisive contribution when it comes to supporting developing countries in protecting their own populations against this deadly virus. Again, I think this is something to be proud of.

So yes, 2020 has been a very grim year but looking ahead to 2021, with developments regarding the vaccines, there are strong reasons to be hopeful that 2021 will be far better.

However, with Covid-19 cases continuing to grow across the country, we are in for a very challenging first couple of months of the new year.

I hope, bearing in mind the restrictions, that as many of my constituents as possible were able to see their loved ones on Christmas Day in a safe way.

Unfortunately for me, I was unable to do so. For a third time since the onset of the pandemic I have been required to self-isolate in my Ipswich flat. However, for the first time, I can say with certainty that this was because I had Covid-19.

Having been tested, I was notified shortly before Christmas that I had tested positive and was required to self-isolate. I’ve only just completed my period of self-isolation. Sadly, this meant that like many others I had to spend my Christmas Day alone.

Conservative Tom Hunt is ahead according to our survey. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Tom Hunt says: 'There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I do truly believe that soon we will be through this.' - Credit: Archant

Christmas is an important time of year for all of us and not being able to spend it in the normal way with our loved ones has been incredibly difficult for many.

However, certainly in my case, I was mostly relieved that I’d got a test, knew that I had Covid-19 and consequently was able to keep out of the way of my 75-year-old father on Christmas Day.

As sad as it was not to see my dad on Christmas Day for the first time in 32 years, I can live with it and look forward to being with him next Christmas.

What I would really have struggled with would have been any sense that I myself had given him Covid-19, particularly when it looks like he’s only a month or so from getting a vaccine himself.

Last April, I voluntarily self-isolated for a week believing that I may have had the virus (it now seems quite likely this wasn’t the case), in the autumn I was identified as a “contact” by Test and Trace of someone else who had the virus and had to self-isolate for over a week and now I’ve had to self-isolate for a further period of time because I myself was found to have the virus.

When I tot it all up, I’ve spent a total of 25 days self-isolating in my Ipswich flat during the pandemic. Clearly, especially as my flat has no outdoor space whatsoever, this has hardly been a barrel of laughs and I’d be lying if I said that it hadn’t impacted my mental health at times - but the reality is that many of my constituents have had it far harder and this is something I’m acutely aware of.

Many of my constituents have had to shield alone for weeks on end, denied contact with their loved ones and always fearful that they could catch the virus with consequences that would likely be far more severe than they have been for me (a dry cough and a bit of wheeziness).

Covid-19 continues to present a serious threat to the physical health of many and it is right that we have taken steps to guard against this but it’s also clear that the last year has taken its toll on the mental health of us all.

I really think I would struggle to find a single person in town whose mental health hasn’t been impacted at least to some extent by the developments of the past year. As we look to recover from the pandemic, it's very important this is something that we never lose sight of.

Whether due to extended periods of isolation, losing a job or extreme anxiety over a business someone may have spent their whole life building, the experience of the last year has been harrowing for many of my constituents.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I do truly believe that soon we will be through this.

We remain a great town and great country and I believe we have a lot to look forward to over the years to come.

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