I spent much of last week in self-isolation, having been ‘pinged’ by the covid app. This is happening to more and more people as the number of cases of covid is rising very rapidly. Ministers seem determined to press ahead with full reopening on 19 July, and while I’m as keen as anyone to see businesses reopen, and entertainments and hospitality fully operational in time for the summer holidays, it’s reckless to remove all the mitigations at once. That’s why Labour has called for mandatory mask-wearing on public transport to continue, for better ventilation systems in buildings used by the public, for proper financial support for people who lose earnings if they have to self isolate, and for the test and trace system to be brought up to scratch. In my case, it wasn’t until 5 days after I’d been in contact with someone who had tested positive that I was notified, so the system isn’t working as swiftly and effectively as it should.
Meanwhile, it’s also vitally important that every possible mitigation is put in place to keep children safely in school. With the end of term fast approaching, there isn’t much time to put measures in place, and the government needs to be planning now for the arrangements that will be needed in September. That includes on-site testing in schools, but it will be essential that heads get the support they need to set that up, and receive early notice of the requirements so they can prepare.
Luckily, being locked away in my back bedroom didn’t prevent me from questioning Gavin Williamson about all this when he made a statement to parliament about the return of schools, colleges and universities in September, as it’s still possible to participate in debates online. But that too is likely to come to an end on 19 July, when Jacob Rees Mogg wants Westminster fully back to pre-pandemic style. But I’ll continue to practise social distancing and wear a mask to minimise the spread of infection as much as I can.
Back in the constituency, and out of isolation, it was great to get over to New Carrington with developer HIMOR on Friday for a tour round the new warehouses which are now being occupied by a number of businesses. This is the first phase of a very extensive set of proposals for housing, business premises and new road infrastructure on and around the former Shell site, and after many years of talking about it and looking at plans, it’s exciting to see the first buildings actually erected and companies moving in. I’m looking forward to many new jobs being created in the area in the years to come, and more housing so that young people can stay in Trafford close to their families and friends.
Saturday was also a busy day in the constituency. A big thank you to Ryebank residents for inviting me to your summer street party – a really enjoyable event. And it was great to catch up with Alex and Steph from the RNLI Manchester branch, who were doing their first charity street collection since the first lockdown last year. They told me that it was the RNLI that actually held the first ever street collection of any charity, 130 years ago, following the loss of 27 lifeboat crew off the north west coast. Plans are afoot for a big event in the city centre later this year to commemorate this. With summer holidays coming, and many families planning a visit to the seaside, the RNLI are rightly reminding everyone of the importance of staying safe in and around water – lifeboat crew put their own lives at risk to rescue others, so please do your bit by not taking unnecessary risks.
And finally, commiserations to Gareth Southgate and the England team following last night’s heartbreaking defeat. But the dignity, style, unity and determination of the players has impressed everyone, and we’re all incredibly proud.