Rutland Times Op-Ed 26th May

I understand that the process of returning to some form of normality presents new anxieties for residents. On Monday, the Prime Minister confirmed that the significant progress we have made in meeting our five key tests means that it is now safe for us to take the next step in our recovery process. The same day antibody tests began to be rolled out to NHS staff and care workers. We are making progress.

From 1st June, early years settings, and Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 classes will be able to return to school. As a parent, and the daughter of teachers, I understand the anxieties some residents have contacted me to share, and I encourage anyone with questions to reach out to me.

To keep our children safe, children will be put in ‘bubbles’ of fifteen pupils (consider them extended households) and their teacher. Breaks and lunchtimes will be staggered between ‘bubbles’, who will not mix with each other. If one member of a ‘bubble’ become symptomatic the entire group will be sent home to isolate until a test confirms whether the effected individual has COVID-19.  The idea is minimising mixing to keep our children as safe as possible.

Developing more nuanced social distancing measures as we gradually ease restrictions means the Government needs to maintain a balance of the number of contacts between people across the country and make difficult decisions about which forms of contact should be prioritised. I have pressed for the Government to introduce contact between families in different households at the earliest opportunity.

Regretfully there is another issue I must discuss. Over the last few days I have received hundreds of emails from constituents about Dominic Cummings. During the pandemic I have had to make decisions about what the guidelines did or did not permit constituents to do. I have always acted in the best interests of residents, giving what I considered to be reasonable advice in each circumstance in consultation with Ministers.

Over the weekend I pressed for more information to get the facts of what happened, I believed that was the least the British people were owed, and I shared my own concerns, and those of residents, with the Conservative Party as is the correct mechanism.

This has been a deeply unhelpful distraction from the national effort to defeat COVID-19. Mr Cummings believed he was protecting his family. I know what it is to be a worried parent, but his actions have caused much frustration and disappointment. As I write on Tuesday, Police have determined he did not breach the guidelines, but he has accepted that he could have done better. I cannot say I would have made the same decisions. The Party is clear of my views, especially on the matter of fairness, as well as those of the many residents who have taken the time to write to me.

We have always been clear that beating this virus requires individual action on a national scale, and I am immensely grateful to all of Rutland for how you have adhered to the lockdown to protect us all, often at great personal emotional cost. Thank you to each and every one of you.