(From Ian Lavery MP’s Column in the News Post Leader & Morpeth Herald)
At the time of writing, it is less than a day since Boris Johnson addressed the nation and moved us into a new phase. Sadly, this has seemed only to add fuel to the fire of confusion, with many people in all parts of the UK already struggling to understand the Government’s mixed messaging.
All of this is leading to further worry, stress and anxiety at a time where many people are dealing with intense pressure on their mental health.
Despite the emphasis on how critical a point we are at as a country, the Government has failed to give clear instruction to millions of people whose daily lives, family interactions and livelihoods are feeling more uncertain every single day.
This pandemic has already shown that more disadvantaged communities and low paid workers are more vulnerable to this virus and forcing people back into jobs where social distancing is impossible will only make this worse.
The National Education Union (NEU) has been calling for the Government only to re-open schools once they are entirely sure it is safe to do so.
These are big steps that cannot be undone once taken and I agree with the NEU that it would be incredibly foolish of the Government to jump head first into re-opening schools simply because of pressures from large-scale employers who should be caring for the welfare of their employees’ families.
The Government’s new guidance on outside spaces, allowing people now to remain and relax in public areas such as parks, will be welcomed by many.
But managing and policing social distancing for an entire population is an impossible task and whilst the majority of people are sensible and will ensure they follow the rules around appropriate distancing, there will undoubtedly be those who will not.
Another complication becomes especially apparent in many areas of Northumberland, with the Government announcing that there will be no limit on travelling to exercise or enjoy recreation time.
I have already been contacted by concerned constituents understandably worried about popular beauty spots in the county. These places could become congested and we could see a return to the scenes of pre-lockdown, which was a clear contributing factor in virus transmission.
I will be doing all I can to address these issues with the relevant authorities and continue to hold the Government to account in the newly established Virtual Parliament.
Anybody who needs help or assistance, is concerned or confused, please do not hesitate to contact my office team on 01670 852494. You can also emailif you have any questions.