Today is our first Bank Holiday Monday since the COVID-19 lockdown process began and as residents of Brighton and Hove and beyond are very well aware, our coast is recognised as one of the key places where people would like to come on a day like today. Thankfully we have two more bank holidays due next month but the challenge of today is far more intense at the moment than it is on those two days. However if people do choose to come to visit our city today or indeed if those of us who live here choose to use today as an opportunity to go onto the beach, particularly if the weather is nice, then the impact on our region and the other locations where people might come from could be very significant. If this bank holiday along with this long weekend has not been treated with a serious level of response to the lockdown call, then the prospect of things beginning to open up by the end of May will be severely diminished, and even the August bank holiday could then become a great deal less normal than most of us would hope. A few days ago a friend of mine who works for Sussex Police wrote a few words on this theme and I felt that we could all benefit from some of them, given that she has been working extremely hard in our city to try to limit the damage that the C-19 could cause all of us.
Our NHS colleagues are heroes; our job is to protect them and our communities. I am so proud of my colleagues locally who have gone out again and again and again trying to explain why we want people to go home. On too many occasions they have been met with indifference, abuse and worse – assault. We have powers but we really don’t want to use them. This weekend looks like a test of those who care and those who don’t. This is not a game. This is not about dodging the rules. This is not about showing you can’t be told what to do. This is about saving lives.
It is clear that C-19 is not just a challenge to residents and our potential visitors on a sunny day, but it is also a challenge to the many businesses and organisations that employ significant numbers of people across our area which of course includes police officers like my friend and NHS workers who work inside hospitals, GP locations and in ambulances. However there are many other companies that play a vital role for our economy under normal circumstances and will do so again once the lockdown is ended.
I work for a company that is now carrying out a furlough arrangement for most of us, but before that happened we had already made a number of substantial changes to the way in which we usually operate so that all of our team could be separated by at least 2m throughout the days. Clearly there are many companies that still operate even though some of them are perhaps less critical than they are currently being treated. At the end of last week on one morning when I was out walking out to try to achieve my 10,000 steps, I passed a team of over half a dozen people from a company that were all standing near each other and by their fleet talking in a huddle as if the C-19 threat could not impact their lives. The challenge in such settings is that anyone who is more conscious of the impact of the virus would potentially feel under pressure to take part in such a conversation rather than be seen as the one or two people who do not act in the same way as their colleagues. It is vital that all companies that are still working will play a robust active role in persuading their staff to avoid such activities until our nation can resolve how to keep us all safe.
In the meantime the challenge for many other agencies to be able to operate in a sustainable manner is vital. The provision from the Government towards charities last week was a small step in the right direction when they set out some financial support, but then a few days later they went on to make very substantial arrangements for MPs to be able to work from their homes. It would be lovely if the Government was willing to offer the same sort of economic provision for charities and also some of the other public sector bodies that are carrying out the fundamental work for the health provision of our nation. That would make last week’s additional provision for our MPs seem a little bit more justified.