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.
The situation is South Yorkshire, and across the country, is extremely precarious. We are seeing very concerning increases in the rate of infection which will, in time, lead to increased numbers of hospitalisations and deaths.
It is essential that the Government takes decisive action to stem the growth in infection rates.
Concurrently, they must fix the test-and-trace system which has descended into chaos and ensure that everyone who needs a test can get one within 24 hours and get a result 24 hours after that. 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.
We can all do our bit to support this national effort by following the latest guidance from the NHS and Public Health England in order to contain this disease, which can be found here. That means reducing unnecessary social contact; working from home where you can; using face coverings in shops and on public transport; and washing hands on a regular basis.
The Chancellor is right to take action on jobs and businesses facing a cliff edge at the end of furlough, however this package only offers temporary respite for existing jobs and businesses at risk, and nothing to support industries who remain closed because of restrictions. We need to see a long-term plan for renewal – starting with backing my ambitious and wide-ranging Renewal Action Plan. The Government shouldn’t risk trying to drive the recovery from Westminster, and should give Mayors and Council Leaders the powers and resources we need to support local residents, businesses and community groups and build a stronger, fairer and greener regional economy.
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 keep each other 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 South Yorkshire 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.
The Coronavirus pandemic has underlined the fragility of our public services and how the economy too often doesn’t work for working people and their families. There can be no return to a failed status quo in the aftermath of this crisis. We must rebuild and renew our economy and reverse the fundamental and deep-seated structural problems that persist in areas like ours. That’s why I have been consistent in calling on the Government to deliver a ‘New Deal for the North’ and working to build a regional economy that is stronger, fairer and greener for all our communities.
I know our people and 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 24 September 2020