Another week in lock-down means a week closer to revival!
These are undoubtedly testing times in every definition of the word. As a country we are tested, as individuals too. More literally, we are rolling out testing on a serious scale and Parliament itself, that 700 year old institution is testing the capacity of new technology to deliver on our democratic pillars of governance and accountability. Extraordinary times..
There is some cause for optimism around Coronavirus with four out of five government’s tests to enable the UK to move out of lock-down either been met or close to being met despite many challenges
1.we do have the intensive care capacity and some to spare through the Nightingale hospitals.
2. we do have early signs of a 'sustained and consistent' fall in the daily death rate but it needs to go more
3. the rate of infection is decreasing to 'manageable levels'
4. the supply of tests and PPE to meet future demand is effective although challenges remain.
However, it is the fifth test that is a little trickier: we must be confident removing or altering lock-down measures will not risk a second peak that overwhelms the NHS. Without a vaccine, this is a challenge for every country and it’s why the government is still cautious about lifting the restrictions.
We must also be mindful that the coronavirus situation in care homes remains a real challenge and that will play into this thinking too.
I do understand there is growing frustration and real concern about jobs and the economy going forward but, as the foreign secretary said this week, we are at a delicate and dangerous situation and I think patience, for a little longer, is needed as we prioritise saving lives.
This week I have spoken with Hospital leaders and we have over 200 new babies born! - life will go on and there's a brave new world for us to imagine for these little ones, born at such a time as this. I have spoken with Sussex Police and council leaders. We are all working together to come through this.
On the parliamentary front, the Northern Ireland Affairs committee, of which I am a member, sat virtually for the first time. I also chaired a meeting of MPs engaging with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs; my department has been very much to the fore in this crisis.
I won't be returning to London next week but the work of parliament goes on, in fact, in another parliamentary first, I voted from home yesterday. No doubt some changes will remain but I will always support voting in the Lobbies at The House of Commons - it's that golden time in the day when I know where Ministers will be! It's off camera, and may go unseen, but those opportunities to promote the interests and concerns of Eastbourne & Willingdon really count.