Moving forward from the pandemic for a brighter future

These long months during the pandemic have been very difficult. Yet they have shown our nation at its finest as we have all come together to control the virus and support each other. Now we need to plan ahead and there will be difficult choices. To get the NHS back on track, boost the economy and strengthen the public finances for the years and decades to come.

Everyone has played a vital role in helping to beat the virus and to bring it under control. But it’s clear that the virus will not completely go away in the near future. So we need to learn to live with the virus as we make the necessary decisions to get things back on track for the longer term.

Changes have already been made to the self-isolation rules to recognise that we are in the next phase of dealing with the virus. That means that that if you are fully vaccinated or under 18 and a half years old or cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons then even if someone in your household is positive for coronavirus you do not need to self-isolate any longer.

As schools return we can expect a rise in cases. That has been the experience in Scotland, and it would be expected in England too. However, the rules on self-isolation for pupils have been updated to reflect the new phase in managing the virus, so there should be less interruption to learning than over the summer term.

A key plank of controlling the virus has been the vaccination programme. It has been a great national, and local, effort. Almost 80% of all over-16s are now double jabbed and around 90% are single jabbed. The more people who are jabbed the greater the protection for everyone from death or serious illness. That’s why I would like to see jabs offered to all teenagers, where they and their parents agree. It has been a herculean effort for teachers and students alike to manage the stop-start of home learning, in-school learning and hybrid learning with self-isolation. With schools returning for the Autumn term it is vital that we move to a situation where there can be regular, uninterrupted, learning to the greatest extent possible.
 
The focus on the pandemic has had a real impact on healthcare. Waiting lists for other serious and life-threatening illnesses have been climbing at an alarming rate. We have to get the NHS back on track for killer diseases like cancer and heart diseases. Also, to tackle the backlog of vital treatment on other debilitating illnesses. There has been so much progress in recent years in preventative healthcare. We mustn’t lose the benefits of that early intervention and preventative approach.

As we approach a new school term and parliamentary session, I’ll be fighting for the needs of our local community as we move forward from the pandemic and plan for a brighter future.

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