This wretched global Coronavirus pandemic, is affecting every single one of us, given the unprecedented measures governments around the world have had to take, including ours. The virus itself has been slower to reach Shropshire, but is now in our midst and local residents have been responding brilliantly to the advice to stay at home, to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed and save lives.
I have been deeply heartened by the amazing response of communities across South Shropshire to pull together and help those in need.
With around 30% of South Shropshire’s population over retirement age, we clearly have a substantial proportion of those at greater risk, and needing to shield themselves. The number of people aged 90 or above in South Shropshire has more than doubled in my time as your MP, many in residential or receiving domiciliary care locally.
So helping those self-isolating or shielding to receive food and medicines safely, has been a key role for the wonderful coronavirus support groups that have sprung up across county. The number of those volunteering to help neighbours in need, has been truly inspirational to see. Having been in self-isolation myself since mid-March with a chronic lung condition, I am very much aware of the difficulties from not being able to go out as usual to get supplies or work as normal.
I have been working to support those community groups of which I am aware, listed on www.philipdunne.com. Local residents can get in touch with Shropshire Council’s Covid-19 support line on 0345 678 9028 for emergency help.
While in isolation, I have been doing all I can to support the thousands of local residents who have been in touch by email, many with urgent health issues or concerns about their livelihoods. An initial priority for me and my team was helping local South Shropshire folk who, due to global travel restrictions imposed with little or no notice, became stranded overseas. Some have been in desperate conditions or medically critical situations - for example, a constituent who had been stuck in a hospital in Florida, after suffering a stroke – who I am pleased to say we helped to get a medical evacuation by air to Princess Royal Hospital. With collaboration between government and the airlines, many people have managed to get home, and we continue to work to repatriate any who remain stranded.
I have regular updates with NHS leaders locally, as well as weekly calls with Shropshire Council to discuss responses across the county. I have been in touch with each care home and domiciliary care provider operating in South Shropshire to understand the particular issues they face in keeping their residents and staff safe.
The House of Commons returned from the Easter recess in a partially digital format, though I have been continuously raising issues throughout this crisis with Ministers, who are working flat out. I have chaired the Environmental Audit Committee meeting in virtual sessions to maintain scrutiny of the government.
As I write, it is not yet clear when this lockdown will end. But knowing fit and able people who have only just survived its effects, including of course the Prime Minister, I am well aware of the seriousness of coronavirus. But I am also convinced we will get through this crisis as a country, and I am sure the community spirit and respect for carers shown during this pandemic will last for years to come.
I felt, as usual, Her Majesty, in only her fifth address to the nation as Queen, captured the mood of the nation so well when she said: “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us, will say that the Britons of this generation, were as strong as any.”
Keep safe and well.
Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP