When one of my constituents needed a COVID test for her daughter, she had to go to Blyth to get one. Unable to drive and unable to a use taxi or bus, she walked.
Whitley Bay to Blyth is 13 miles, there and back. That vividly illustrates the problems which exist with testing , yet from the outset testing has been the key. You cannot effectively tackle the virus if you don’t know where it is in the community.
As our region is in a second lockdown, testing remains critical. With our local authorities I’m pressing the Government for additional resources for testing and tracing. We need more test centres including in centres of population like Whitley Bay and we need to put testing in the hands of local public health experts. We also need more testing teams to respond to outbreaks in schools, care homes and workplaces.
That will be an important part in enabling pupils to stay in lessons and employees to stay in work. Staying in work also requires guaranteeing wages for employees in hard hit firms. The tripartite system introduced by the Chancellor may guarantee part of their wages but some employers may yet decide it’s cheaper to shed staff.
The Government could have responded more positively earlier in the month to our plan to extend support. The self employed stand to come off worse with just 20% of their income guaranteed. It’s not good enough and the Chancellor should think again. Whether testing or avoiding job losses the Government really does have to step up.