The Coronavirus represents the most serious public health crisis any of us have faced. We will get through this with the solidarity, courage, initiative and resilience that epitomises our coalfield communities here in Barnsley and South Yorkshire.
I strongly urge everyone to follow the official guidance from the NHS and Public Health England in order to contain this disease, which can be found here.
The Prime Minister has announced further easing of lockdown restrictions in England. These key measures include:
- Single people can form a ‘bubble’ with one other household, with whom they can interact without social distancing.
- The re-opening on non-essential retail outlets, with social distancing in place.
- From 4 July, the re-opening of pubs, restaurants and hotels with safety measures in place.
- Households will be able to meet and stay overnight, with social distancing in place.
- Live sports can take place without crowds.
- The ‘2 metre’ rule will be gradually relaxed, to be replaced by a ‘1 metre plus’ rule.
As we begin to come through this crisis, and life starts to return to normal, it is all the more important that everyone remains alert and continues to avoid unnecessary social contact. People must use their common sense to minimise the risk of transmission: use face coverings in public and especially on public transport; continue to shop in a measured, sensible way; work from home where possible.
The Government must redouble their efforts to reduce the ‘R’ rate of transmission and keep it consistently below 1 and provide clear data at a local and regional level to better inform the response to localised outbreaks. Moreover, the strategy of test, trace and isolate must become a way of life if we are to save lives, protect the vulnerable and beat this virus for good.
I urge the Government to continue working closely with mayors and local council leaders to ensure that any easing of the lockdown is smooth and orderly, and done in such a way that supports communities and businesses in South Yorkshire and the whole country. Additionally, the Government must ensure that support remains available and there is no ‘cliff edge’ for those employees and businesses who are still facing difficulties as we gradually return to a more normal way of life.
The Government guidance states that those who are returning to work should avoid public transport and drive, walk or cycle where possible and that those who do must wear face coverings. However, I know that for many workers in South Yorkshire, who rely on buses or rail to get to work, avoiding public transport is simply not an option. I am working closely with operators and the Government to ensure that plans are in place to enable us to adhere to social distancing and continue running public transport for all our communities. I am also pushing for clear, consistent communications around the wearing of face coverings to encourage passengers to follow these regulations.
My message to people in South Yorkshire is clear: by continuing to follow the guidance and taking sensible precautions to each safe we will overcome this virus.
I would like to pay tribute to the more than 40,000 people across the country – including the hundreds here in South Yorkshire – who have lost their lives to this horrible disease and extend my deepest sympathies to their families, friends and loved ones. Every death represents a family in mourning and a community devastated.
I’d also like to offer my heartfelt gratitude to those front-line workers – the doctors, nurses, social care workers and support staff; the retail, transport and postal workers; the staff in our Local Authorities delivering vital services, to name just a few – who are working flat out to protect our most vulnerable and keep our communities going. Thank you.
Every home in Britain has been touched by the Coronavirus. Whether through losing a relative, serving as a key worker, or enduring profound disruption to everyday life. We will overcome this virus, together, by maintaining our collective resolve, continuing to follow the advice and taking every measure to contain this disease. Lives depend upon it.
Both as the MP for Barnsley Central and as the Sheffield City Region Mayor, I am working around the clock to co-ordinate the response to Coronavirus in South Yorkshire. I am receiving regular briefings from South Yorkshire’s Local Resilience Forum and I’m in regular contact with our Directors of Public Health, the NHS, Public Health England, South Yorkshire Police, Government Ministers and my fellow Metro Mayors to ensure that Barnsley and South Yorkshire get the resources we need to deal with the virus; that our businesses get the vital practical advice to weather the storm of this disease; and that our regional economy is safeguarded as much as possible. You can find out more about the work I am doing to respond to the Coronavirus here.
Alongside responding to the challenges this virus poses, we must also get on with the job of rebuilding and renewing our economy and our society. We need a significant post-COVID stimulus package, one that is used to reverse the fundamental and deep-seated structural problems that persist in areas like ours. When we, together, overcome this dreadful disease there can be no return to the status quo – we must build a fairer, more equal country.
This is an extraordinarily challenging time for our people, our communities and our public services. I have every confidence that our brilliant, hard-working NHS staff will rise to the challenge, but we all need to do what we can to support them. That means supporting our elderly and vulnerable relatives and neighbours who have to self-isolate; and following the official guidelines.
I know our communities here in South Yorkshire will look out for each other – as we saw in the floods last November – and that together we will come through this.
Updated 23 June 2020