This week, the Prime Minister announced some further covid restrictions, which he said would likely apply for the next 6 months. I hope they work, but fear they may not go far enough to protect us from the continued spread of the virus. Of course, here in Greater Manchester, we are already subject to additional restrictions, and the change in national rules means many of us are becoming more and more confused about what’s permitted and what is not. The government has restarted daily calls for MPs wanting answers to constituents’ covid-related questions, so if there’s something you’re unsure about, let me know and I will try to obtain a response for you.
New measures have also been announced on financial support to help protect jobs and businesses, and people who are self isolating. Labour has been calling for extra support for months, so while this announcement was much needed, it too doesn’t go far enough. I wish ministers would accept that acting swiftly and decisively will get us out of the crisis more quickly. We are all desperate to be able to be with friends and family again.
My time has been spent mostly on the situation in schools and universities. It is worrying that the school attendance rate has fallen to 87%. Normally it would be more like 97%. This is not really because lots of children are testing positive for covid, but because large numbers are sent home if one child in the class tests positive, but then the other children can’t get a test. I am really worried about the disruption to children’s education if this continues, and not least about how assessments and exams can be run fairly when so much learning has been lost. I am very grateful to local year 11 and 13 students who joined me on a zoom call last week to describe the impact this is having on them. Meanwhile, many students have now returned to university, and already there is some alarming news of outbreaks on campuses. The government really must get a grip of the situation before it escalates.
When not debating and dealing with covid, it has been back to our old friend Brexit. I’m quite astonished at news of a ‘border’ round Kent, and dismayed that with only weeks to go till the end of the transition period, the government still hasn’t concluded its promised ‘oven ready’ deal with the EU. So we found ourselves still in parliament at nearly midnight on Monday, for a series of votes on the government’s flawed plans. Not the best start to the week.