I had a slight problem with my heart in August (not really serious) so I have taken the decision, based on medical advice, not to return to Westminster while the spike in Covid 19 lashes our country once again. About 150 MPs are staying away from London right now, mainly us over 60’s or ones with medical challenges. We can all keep tabs on daily Parliamentary activity, beam in by video to ask questions and hold ministers to account and vote by proxy. We have access to ministers by phone and Zoom. I am doing all this from my office, thirty metres from my home. This will be the pattern until we get through this storm.
The key to defeating the coronavirus must be each of us taking personal responsibility. Each one of us should carry out a risk assessment on ourselves and those with whom we live and make a decision about the extent to which we are vulnerable, and then live accordingly. I freely recognise that this is much easier for those who, like me, can work from home. This is much more difficult for those in retail and construction or on the NHS frontline or care home staff. Younger, fitter people can afford to take more risks provided they do not have inappropriate contact with older more vulnerable members of their circle. Most people are behaving with commendable responsibility.
The other key is testing. It is vital that children who display symptoms of what could be Covid are sent home until they get a negative test. That is why so many resources are being invested into the testing system, with two new laboratories which can process 50,000 swabs per day shortly to come on stream.
Two weeks ago, roughly 2,000 people a week were being tested in Plymouth. That is now over 3,300. Nationally the capacity is 250,000 per day which we plan to increase to 500,000 per day by the end of October. Every NHS frontline worker, care home worker, teacher or pupil displaying symptoms must be able to get a test locally and immediately and the result within 24 hours. We are working towards this. We are testing more per day than any EU country.
Some people, usually from their armchairs, think that setting up such a system is easy. It is in fact a colossal logistical challenge to keep ahead of sharply rising demand. Our old friend Harry Hindsight makes a regular appearance.
This is all unprecedented. Everyone is doing their best. We will prevail.