Coronavirus: The public needs confidence in what happens next

I want to say an enormous thank you for the many messages of goodwill, prayers and thoughts from people across Rochdale for my personal recovery from Coronavirus. I’m not there yet but I really am determined to get completely well again and moral support does help. And that compassion maintains my strong faith in the decency of the overwhelming majority of people in our society.

Some of you will have seen the thanks I have given for the  tremendous level of care that I, and those around me, received  in Manchester Royal. The highly skilled medical care was there but that was interwoven with the human decency and compassion from nursing staff, cleaners, consultants, secretaries and others and that is what makes our NHS so special.

I’m very conscious in writing these words that there are people and families grieving for those who were a loved family member and a part of our community. And we should reach out in our hearts to each one of them.

Dealing with the pandemic shouldn’t be party political, those grieving, those caring deserve better than that.

It is, though, bewildering that we now can see the things that, these weeks on, are not being done. Promised personal protective equipment for our hospitals and Care Homes is not there and that  puts both staff and residents, especially in Care Homes at too much risk.  Track and Trace is not up to speed. Where it’s available, essential workers being asked to travel many miles to access it, is unacceptable.

Prime Minister Johnson’s confused weekend message seemingly puts England on a different tack to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I’m not the only one who thinks the consistent messaging of Welsh and Scottish First Ministers, Mark Drayford and Nicola Sturgeon, makes them look like the grown-ups in the room.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak  has done the right thing in giving financial support to save businesses from collapsing (that would be more acceptable if assisted companies headed by tax exiles, like Richard Branson’s Virgin group, saw their bosses made to pay UK tax).

Everyone accepts we must get our economy moving again. But Trade Unions are right to insist that protecting the economy cannot put at risk the health and lives of those  going back to work. That’s why Britain needs something better than constantly changing announcements which look as if they’re being made up as we go along.

This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 13 May 2020.

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