The firebreak lockdown is due to end on 9 November and new rules will come into force. Two-household bubbles can be formed, 15 people can meet indoors for organised activities, and 30 people can meet outdoors for organised activities. Non-essential businesses will be able to reopen and there will be no travel restrictions within Wales. People are still asked to work from home where possible and due to the England-wide lockdown that has now come into force, there should be no travel to and from England, unless there is a reasonable excuse.
These times have been incredibly difficult for everyone and I know the restrictions on seeing friends and family have hit people hard. It’s strange to consider how little we used to think about meeting a friend for coffee or having a meal out with family but these small things have suddenly become incredibly precious to us. There is no shame in struggling to cope with all the changes, with finding life a bit more stressful and worrying than before. Mind Cymru and the Samaritans are there to help and please, if you are struggling or just want to talk to someone please visit their websites to find out about accessing help and support. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and it is vital in times like these, that we take our mental health seriously and take the time to look after it.
It’s been a busy week with (virtual) meetings with the Choice at End of Life All-Party Parliamentary Group as well as the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel and Metal-Related Industries. It might seem like the only thing in the news is coronavirus, but, of course, all our regular political work is continuing. There was a discussion in Parliament this week on the impact of the new Covid restrictions on those travelling abroad to seek end of life care in Switzerland, as well as some expressed desires to see the law changed to safeguard those approaching those end of life decisions. It’s an incredibly difficult and sensitive issue, especially for those patients and their families who are actually having to make these choices, but it is important that our law is both compassionate and safe. Currently it is neither.
As many of you will be aware, I am a strong supporter of our steel industry and want to see the UK Government ensure that their industrial strategy is robust enough to support industry through this pandemic so that they can support us through our recovery afterwards. Our steel industry is a critical aspect of our recovery – the jobs it supports directly, those throughout its supply chain, and the products that are used throughout the UK on the various infrastructure and building programmes that the UK Government proposes. A strong steel and manufacturing base is in our interests – it provides well-paid, highly-skilled jobs and supports the economies of the communities in which they operate. It’s high time the UK Government recognised this and used British steel.
I was very pleased to join the Resolution Foundation’s virtual seminar “From locking down to levelling up in Wales” with First Minister Mark Drakeford as keynote speaker. When this crisis is over – and I have every confidence that our fantastic medical teams in hospitals and research laboratories up and down the country will find a way to end it – I do not want to see things return to “normal”. Normal was not working for us – inequality was widening and too many communities were being left behind as the pernicious impacts of austerity became clear. I want to live in a country where work pays, and where one job is sufficient to support a family. I want to see communities across the country enjoy investment and support for their local economies. Levelling up is about giving opportunities to communities to rebuild their towns and economies after ten years of take, take, take from a Tory Government and that is what we need following Covid.
There was some good news for Christmas shoppers this week as Neath Port Talbot council announced a fee waiver for car parks in town centres this Christmas in order to help local businesses. Our small businesses have had such a tough year and I hope as many people as possible will take the opportunity after the fire break to return to the shops in our town centres and our local businesses instead of shopping online. The local economy is so important for our community and we must do all we can to support it.
We will mark a very different Remembrance Sunday this year as England goes into a full national lockdown. There will be no traditional march past the Cenotaph in Whitehall, but there will be a Government-led closed ceremony that will be televised. Despite the chaos around us, I think it’s very important to take a few moments to remember and honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country. It is also important that we do not forget to honour the service of our Armed Forces personnel today and that of our veterans. We have seen so much professionalism and dedication from our servicemen and women during this crisis and I will also be thinking of all of them this year.
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch about matters that fall under my work as an MP, please do not hesitate to drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01639 630152. My staff are working from home to comply with the social distancing measures, but, as always, we remain there should you need to get in contact with us.
I hope you stay well, and remember – observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!