Thank you for joining me today for my 8th virtual Covid-19 Q&A. I would like to again thank the team here at the Barn Theatre for all the work they are doing to make these sessions possible. I hope you are finding them informative, please do keep getting in touch with your questions or comments.
I received an email this week from a constituent who has had a long career in the Royal Air Force serving this country, he said that in times of great challenge it is so important to support one another. This difficult period we are living through has really shown the importance of working together, helping in the community, and perseverance.
It seems fitting that as we begin to look towards returning to normality after this unprecedented couple of months, we today commemorate and celebrate VE day.
75 years ago on 8 May 1945 we celebrated Victory in Europe (VE), after almost 6 years of war Britain and its Allies formally accept Nazi Germany’s surrender. The speech that we just heard from the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill was given at 15:00, to announce that Germany had surrendered and that the long war in Europe had finally come to an end.
It is a somber day as we remember all those who died, the sacrifice of the 384,000 British soldiers, along with 100,000s of men and women who died while serving in Commonwealth and Allied forces.
I realise that many of us are not able to commemorate this day in the usual way, but I have published on my website a list of various events that are going ahead today which I hope many of you are able to participate in or watch. We must also look towards VJ day(Victory over Japan) on the 2 September which we will be able to commemorate without such strict lockdown measures.
Full programme on my website:
My deepest sympathies are with those who have lost loved ones in the last couple of months. I am sure many of us will be using this day for reflection.
Last week the Prime Minister announced that we had reached the peak of the virus and this Sunday at 7pm we expect another statement on the route out of lockdown.
Today I am joined by a panel of local educators:
Mr Jim Grant - Principal Cirencester College
Mr John Sanderson - Principal Chipping Campden School Academy
Mr Rob Jones - Head of Rendcomb College
Mr Barry Jackson - Founder / Director Aspire Academy
Mrs Jo Woolley - Head of St Marys Primary Tetbury
We will be discussing how will it be possible to let children back to school and students back to college, and what effect has the virus had on educational establishments in the Cotswolds?
I am keen to hear from you on what experience you have had of studying from home, educating your children, teaching a class remotely, or the success of online lessons.
The Government unveiled measures to ensure vulnerable and disadvantaged young people can continue to access vital education resources from their homes. Providing laptops and tablets to children with a social worker and disadvantaged young people who are taking exams next year, so they can continue to access essential services and resources.
4G routers will also be provided to disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers, so that they can get online and continue their studies.
The Oak National Academy was launched to provide children with online lessons every week. The brand new enterprise has been created by 40 teachers from some of the leading schools across England, backed by government grant funding.
TESTING AND TRACING
The Government announced it will be investing £388 million for research to discover new vaccines, tests and treatments, as part of a larger £744 million aid commitment to help end the pandemic and support the global economy.
Mobile Covid-19 testing site has been set up in county - a new drive-through mobile testing unit (MTU) for coronavirus has been launched in Gloucestershire.
The full list of who is eligible to attend is here:
We urgently need to reach a place where testing is available to anyone working in a care setting who wants to take one.
The Government have launched a pilot of the NHS contact tracing app in the Isle of Wight, which will play a crucial role in our plan to test, track and trace on the mass scale we need across the country.
The app has already been tested in closed condition in an RAF airbase. The privacy and security of users’ data is a priority and experts from the National Cyber Security Centre have advised on best practice through the app’s development.
Emergency measures, including business grants, tax deferrals, and the job retention scheme, are already helping hundreds of thousands of small businesses weather the impact of Coronavirus.
Dairy farmers - I worked very hard with colleagues to get much needed support for dairy farmers under considerable financial pressure due to excess milk, falling prices, and reduced demand from the hospitality sector. The government announced this week a new hardship fund for those farmers to claim up to £10,000 each covering 70% of their lost income during April and May.
Full announcement here:
Bounce Back Loan Scheme, launched last weekend, it enables small businesses to borrow up to £50,000 and access the cash within days. These loans are easy to apply for, with just seven questions on the form. They are 100 percent government-backed and will be interest free for 12 months. 69,000 Bounce Back Loans worth over £2 billion were paid out during the first 24 hours of the scheme.
Postponing business rates revaluation in 2021 to help reduce uncertainty for firms affected by the impacts of coronavirus. Legislation had been introduced to bring the next revaluation forward by one year from 2022 to 2021, but following the recent economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic ministers want to ensure businesses have more certainty during this difficult time.
An extra £76 million has been made available to support survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence and modern slavery, as well as ensuring vulnerable children and young people continue to get the help they need.
Over one million food boxes have now been delivered to people who are most at risk from coronavirus, ensuring the most vulnerable in society have all the support they need to get through this epidemic. I pay great tribute to those who have helped with preparing and delivering these boxes.
As I said in last weeks session, I have been contacted by a high number of constituents who wanted the green waste collection services to be restarted. I am very pleased that after raising this issue with CDC, that the service will restart for those who pay for it.
I have also been pressing Gloucestershire County Council to re-open recycling centre and I am glad we have a timetable for that too. These two are completely separate services and under no account should garden waste be taken to household recycling as this could overwhelm the service.
During such a difficult time I know many of you who have gardens, have found great enjoyment and comfort from tending them.
We have a galaxy of talent from the education sector here today, I thank them for taking the time to come and discuss how we can get our schools back as lockdown restrictions are eased. They all have tremendous experience and I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this important topic in more detail today.