Thursday, 26 March 2020

Stay at Home, Protect Lives, Save the NHS

Over the last week the Coronavirus pandemic has continued to develop at pace and there have been major effects for us all with the decision to close all restaurants, pubs and non-food shops and strong advice to everyone to stay at home wherever possible and to take care to distance themselves from others when they do need to go out or go to work.
These quite extraordinary measures have had to be taken in order to protect lives and try to reduce the pressure on our NHS which is going to have a huge task trying to deal with those more serious cases that lead to people being hospitalised. While the vast majority of us can fight off the Coronavirus, all of us contribute to spreading it around and therefore passing it on to those more vulnerable people who might not be able to fight it off.
The steps taken will have huge impacts on the economy and it is a worrying time for many with businesses forced to close and many losing their jobs. It has also been an incredibly volatile time with public anxiety driving behaviours that are not helpful. Cornwall and many other parts of the country initially saw an influx of people fleeing to the countryside thinking that it helped them to isolate but the danger is that they carry the virus with them and out vulnerable local residents at greater risk. There have also been difficult situations in the food supply chain with panic buying in some areas meaning that Supermarkets struggled to keep food on their shelves.
The government has taken steps to give tougher guidance to people only to travel if absolutely essential, to stay at home and work from home if at all possible and when going out to do essential shopping to do all they can to keep their distance from others maintaining a 2 metre separation wherever practical.
In Defra my main focus has been on trying keep the food supply chain moving. In the last three weeks shops have put an additional £1 billion of extra food into people’s homes. We have a resilient food supply chain which is able to respond to increases in demand as it does every Christmas. Food manufacturers have increased their production by about 50% to meet the surge in demand. We removed time restrictions on lorry movements at stores and relaxed restrictions on drivers’ hours to keep the lorries moving more food to every store.
At times like this we discover as a country the jobs that are really valued. Those who work in the food supply chain whether on farms, in food processing factories, delivery drivers and staff in supermarkets have done a fantastic job keeping the nation fed and their jobs are of crucial importance. Some of them have faced anger and abuse from a tiny minority of the public but the rest of us are grateful for all that they are doing to keep us fed at a difficult time.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

COVID-19 - Coronavirus

In the past week public awareness and concern around the Coronavirus has risen sharply as governments around the world including the UK have taken some dramatic steps to dampen the spread of the disease in order to reduce the peak of infection and ensure that our NHS is able to cope with an expected increase in cases.
This disease has been monitored closely since the first outbreaks in China towards the end of last year and the Government has been working for months to put in place plans first to contain the disease and then to delay it and mitigate the effects. It has now become a global pandemic.
In most cases the symptoms are similar to flu with a fever and cough which lasts for up to a week and, like flu, in the overwhelming majority of cases people are able to fight it off. The reason there has been so much concern about it is because it is a new virus and, unlike most flu outbreaks, there is therefore no natural immunity within the population so nothing to check its spread. Unless steps are taken now to delay the transmission of the disease there is a risk that the NHS will be placed under considerable pressure.
So in the last week we have issued guidance to everyone that if they show symptoms of fever and a cough, even if those symptoms are mild, that they should stay at home. We have also said that where a member of a household shows symptoms of the disease then the whole family should try to self-isolate and stay at home to avoid the risk of onward transmission and there is wider advice to the whole population to try to reduce social contact by avoiding large gatherings, by working from home where that is possible and avoiding too much social contact for the time being. People should also wash their hands longer and more frequently which can have a significant impact if we all do it.
There will be significant impacts on the global economy from this pandemic and the Chancellor has stepped in this week with a package of emergency measures to support businesses facing severe disruption. The tourism industry will see severe disruption over Easter.
The most important thing is for people to remain calm and work together as we tackle this disease. Last weekend there were a few isolated cases around London of individuals being inconsiderate and aggressive to staff at supermarkets who were working to try to restock shelves following an increase in demand. The food supply chain is resilient and able to cope with sharp increases in demand as it does every Christmas and there is plenty of food for everyone if people are considerate.
It will also be important in the weeks and months ahead that we all look out for one another, helping elderly neighbours by doing a shopping run for them, or walking their dog if they are staying at home and keeping in touch with family and friends by phone. Once the initial shock over the Coronavirus has settled we all need to pull together to get through it.

Monday, 16 March 2020

St Piran’s Day

Last Saturday I attended the St Piran’s Day celebrations in Redruth. This event goes from strength to strength every year and it was good to see the town centre packed and many local schools and groups taking part in the parade.
Redruth has really led the way in using civic events and celebrations of this sort to bring people into the town and to bring the community together. Together with the pasty festival, the Christmas lights procession and, of course, Murdoch Day, there is something every few months. It is really heartening to see so much support from the local schools and it's a vote of confidence in the future of the town.
Over the past few years, we have seen a growing interest in Cornwall’s history and culture. Camborne, Redruth and Hayle are at the very heart of this revival, and its great to see these great industrial towns leading the way in promoting our rich and wonderful history. From the regeneration of Heartlands at Pool, the new Kresen Kernow Archive, and the redevelopment of Hayle Harbour, we are seeing a lot of regeneration done in a way that not only respects but celebrates our proud industrial past. With the added investment of the Historic Towns Fund in Redruth which will help spread the regeneration of the town that started at Krowji and the butter market, and the Towns fund which will support the further revival of Camborne town centre, there is potential to do much more in the years ahead.
Cornwall has a unique constitutional place within our United Kingdom which is recognised. Many of us consider ourselves as Cornish before English and there has been growing interest in the Cornish language in recent years.
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) - The Coronovirus situation continues to develop globally. The symptoms are similar to flu but the reason it is attracting so much attention is that it is a new virus and there is no natural immunity. As with flu, the overwhelming majority of people make a full recovery typically after a few days. The Government, supported by the Chief Medical Officer, Public Health England, the Department for Health and other government organisations are working hard to manage the outbreak. We have well established and rehearsed plans and approaches to deal with such situations. The most up to date advice can be found on the website.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Constituency catchup

Its good to get out of Westminster at the end of each week and get back home to visit some of the many amazing charities, local schools and innovative businesses in Camborne Redruth and Hayle.
First on the agenda last Friday were meetings with representatives from ththe Council to discuss the progress it has made on its plans for the Towns Fund. Last autumn, the Government announced that Camborne was selected to receive funding from the new Towns Fund which focuses on areas with a proud industrial heritage that are in need of economic growth. There were some interesting discussions, particularly centring around the use of the bus station in the town, but there is still more to be done.
Following this I met the Mayor for Redruth who provided me with an update that the Council were doing especially with regards to the future of the Passmore Edwards library building, whilst also focusing on plans as to how the Council will implement the Historic Towns Fund which will help spread the regeneration that has been started with the opening of Kresen Kernow, Krowji and the Butter Market.
Next up on the agenda was a meeting with Portreath Parish Council and the Environment Agency to discuss their work in delivering a flood alleviation scheme for the town. Over the years Portreath has suffered particularly from flooding and storm damage to its sea defences. The meeting was very encouraging and shows the positive work that can be done when government and organisations come together to tackle issues such as flooding. This is also an area that I have been working on in my role as Secretary of State for the Environment as we support communities that have been affected by flooding and invest more in defences to prevent future flooding from taking place.
I also met with members from the local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Over the years, we have built up good links with the local team and often work together to help constituents who require assistance. The CAB do a lot of good work locally and we’re fortunate to have a strong team that are easily contactable and that work hard for everyone.
Finally, on Saturday morning I held my regular advice surgery. I hold advice surgeries most weeks and have a dedicated team who are here to help unblock problems. If you have a problem that you need help solving, I can be contacted at, by telephone on 0207 219 7032 or by appointment in our Camborne Office at 13 Commercial Street, Camborne, TR14 8JZ.

The Food Strategy

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister was at a farm outside Hayle to announce the government’s first-ever food strategy.  SEF is one of a nu...